BAYPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — An experimental seaplane crash landed in waters off Long Island Tuesday, and incredibly, the pilot walked away unharmed.
It happened around 6:45 a.m. as pilot Joseph Cannizzaro was trying to fly his plane from the Great South Bay off of Gerritsen Avenue. A pontoon and the left wing of the plane caught the water, causing the plane to crash, police said.
The lucky and skilled Cannizzaro managed to avoid a playground, docks and houses not too far from the Fire Island ferry, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.
Resident Peter Williams is credited with rescuing Cannizzaro. He saw the plane in the water and took his boat out to the pilot.
“Nose down, straight nose down, so I didn’t know if he was dead or what was going on,” Williams said. “It is a little crazy when you wake up and you try to clear your eyes and I’m looking, I’m not even out of bed yet, looking out the window and I’m saying, ‘That’s a plane!’ So it was pretty crazy and then I realized there is somebody in trouble here when he went down and that is when I jumped into action.”
Police said the aircraft had achieved very little altitude.
With the cabin of the plane submerged, Cannizzaro looked dazed while standing on one of two damaged pontoons about 1,000 feet off shore at the end of Gerritsen Avenue, McLogan reported.
Williams tied up the seaplane before emergency personnel arrived.
“I tried to get a line to him. He was trying to tell me how to do it, and I says, ‘Why are you trying to tell me how to do this? Look at the shape you are in right now,'” Williams said.
A short time later, Marine Bureau officers arrived and brought Cannizzaro on their boat, police said. They then towed the plane to a nearby beach adjacent to Homan’s Creek.
The grateful pilot is a man of few words and tried to remain stoic following his brush with death, McLogan reported.
“It is a very good day,” he said. “I’m alive.”
The FAA said Cannizzaro reported sputtering engine trouble in his amateur built, light weight experimental “Kitfox II” seaplane with retractable wings, McLogan reported.
Cannizzarro crash-landed closest to Gerritsen Avenue about 1,000 feet out in choppy waters. He was flying alone not far from his own home in Bayport, McLogan reported.
He appeared relieved to survive, and could not find the words to express it.
Cannizzarro declined to be transported to the hospital. The plane has been towed by the Marine Bureau for inspection.