FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A helicopter pilot was recovering Thursday following a harrowing emergency landing on Long Island. Luckily for him, a good Samaritan was there to help.
Damian Walsh said he could not believe his eyes when he saw the chopper crash-land in the water not far from where he was boating in Jones Inlet near Point Lookout at around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
He said he got to the chopper as quickly as he could and saw that the pilot, identified as 64-year-old Victor Girgenti, was alive.
“When I got there he was just crawling out and I started screaming at him, ‘Get away from the helicopter. Get away from it,’ because you don’t know if it’s going to explode,'” Walsh told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge.
Still, he jumped in the water to help and was recording as the pilot got out.
“I was like, ‘Hey are you OK?’ I thought he was OK, but as I got closer to him I could see he was disoriented. He was cut. I grabbed him and walked him over to my boat. He was bleeding,” Walsh said.
Walsh said the first thing the man said was, “Can you call my wife? Tell her I’m all right.”
Meanwhile, another boater showed up and called 911, and rescuers started to arrive, but struggled to get to them in the shallow water and fog.
“Very thick fog. It’s very difficult for them to operate in this kind of conditions from the air. It’s hard from the surface as well. So we’ve got very limited visibility,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer David Turner said.
The Coast Guard said the pilot was the only one aboard the Bell 206B, adding when the visibility suddenly got really bad he tried to make a controlled landing in 3 feet of water.
“He was definitely lost. Everybody got lucky. It could’ve been on the houses. If he had landed about 50 yards over, that could’ve been a nightmare, too, because he would’ve just probably sunk wherever he was because there’s a state channel over there. He fell in the right spot at the right time and I happened to be there,” Walsh said.
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Girgenti was taken to a local hospital with cuts to his face and some back pain. By phone, his wife told CBS2 he is going to be OK, but is exhausted and plans to rest at home for the next few days.
The pilot told rescuers he had left Republic Airport in Farmingdale and was heading toward Manhattan when the bad weather hit.
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