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Boater tells of plane crash rescue

Post by News Tribune Staff on Nov. 21, 2007 at 3:21 pm with No Comments »
November 21, 2007 3:21 pm

I talked with John Farrell, who helped rescue the two people whose plane crashed in Commencement Bay yesterday. I met with him at the Farrelli’s Pizza corporate office in Parkland, and he had some pretty interesting things to say. An early edition of the story is after the jump:



By Scott Fontaine

The News Tribune


When John Ferrell takes his grandchildren on summertime boat trips, he first puts them through a safety test to see if they know how to react if someone goes overboard.


The practice has proved valuable twice this year, including Tuesday’s rescue of two people whose plane crashed into Commencement Bay.


Farrell, who owns the Farrelli’s Pizza restaurant chain in the South Sound area, was entertaining out-of-town guests on his 46-foot boat, the Grand Madison. As the yacht entered Commencement Bay, they noticed a plane flying close to the water. "I remember commenting to my brother-in-law, ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful plane. It’s gliding, just like a bird,’ " he said. "And it was beautiful. It was just gliding in the air. It kind of kept going down, and finally it landed in the water.


"You have that moment where you kind of blink, and you’re in shock."


They put the engine at full throttle and called the Coast Guard over VHF radio. They approached and found the plane’s pilot treading water and holding his mother, who apparently couldn’t swim. The plane had already sunk. Farrell threw a lifeline with a buoy attached and pulled the two out of the frigid waters.


Farrell’s wife, Margaret, helped the woman out of her wet clothes and wrapped her in blankets. The woman seemed hypothermic, Farrell said.


"I’ve taken several boating classes," John Farrell said, "and I’ve personally read the hypothermia process at least once a year to keep it in mind because it’s very important to do the right things."


The pilot has a bruise on his thigh and seemed to be shaken by the incident but otherwise seemed uninjured, Farrell said. A Tacoma Fire and Rescue boat appeared minutes later, and one of its officers boarded the Grant Madison. He decided it was best to keep the woman wrapped in the blankets, and boats then docked at C.I. Shenanigan’s on Ruston Way. Emergency medical technicians were there to treat the two and take them to Tacoma General Hospital.


The hospital said Tuesday afternoon the two did not want their names or conditions released to the public.


Farrell’s boat was the only one in the area, he said, and he believes the two likely wouldn’t have survived if they hadn’t witnessed the crash.


"By the grace of God, we just happened to be in the right place at the right time," he said.


This is the second time this year Farrell has rescued people in the water, he said. His boat was anchored in Oro Bay near Anderson Island when he received a radio call of a sailboat that tipped in 20-knot winds. He got in a dinghy and when he found them, he estimates they were less than five minutes from drowning.


"It’s been a busy year for pulling people out of the water," he said.

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