A deadly plane crash between an Air Force F-16 and a small passenger plane stunned South Carolina and the rest of the country Tuesday.
The two men in the Cessna, a father and son, were killed in the accident, but the F-16 pilot safely ejected before impact.
The group that ended up finding Air Force Major Aaron Johnson was a Savannah-based Coast Guard Crew and on Thursday, they opened up about the experience.
According to Lieutenant Commander and pilot Michael Brimblecom, they were training in Charleston when they got the call.
“They asked if we could go check it out and see if we could help find the pilot who was still missing we had gotten word that he had safely parachuted out but they did not know where he was,” said Brimblecom.
They changed course and quickly found the crash site because of the smoke rising above the trees.
Then, about five minutes later, they saw the pilot’s parachute and rescue swimmer Brannan Hood said they all held their breath – worrying about his condition.
“We treat everybody the same obviously but when you know that there’s a military aviator down, it gets your blood going a little bit faster for sure,” Hood told reporters.
The crew said it wasn’t your average rescue.
Brimblecom held the helicopter steady at about 150 feet above a clearing surrounded by 100 foot trees as Flight Mechanic Matthew Brizendine set up the helicopter’s hoist; a typical Coast Guard rescue hoist is done at only 30 to 50 feet above the water.
“It may have been a little more challenging for him although he did a great job,” said Brizendine. “For me nothing was moving so it was easy to make the adjustments I needed to make to complete the hoist.”
Hood told WSAV he was nervous about what he’d find as Brizendine lowered him to the ground, but he was relieved to find Johnson on his feet and almost completely unharmed.
“To see him standing up was pretty impressive considering the amount of debris and the wreckage and also all of the trees,” he said. “He didn’t hit a single tree on the way down which is very impressive.”
Hood said Johnson only had one minor scrape on his shoulder so they decided not to hoist him up into the helicopter; instead they helped guide trucks on the ground to the location and he was transported to an ambulance waiting just up the road.