A father and daughter from Alabama are continuing their medical mission in Haiti after safely ditching off the coast of Florida near the Bahamas on Saturday when the engine in their Cirrus SR22 suddenly quit.
Dr. Richard McGlaughlin, 59, and his daughter, Elaine McGlaughlin, 25, departed from their home near Birmingham, Alabama, on Saturday for a planned stop in Miami, before continuing on to Haiti. About an hour after the pair took off from Miami, their Cirrus suffered an engine failure. The crew of a nearby Coast Guard HC-144 patrol aircraft heard McGlaughlin’s radio distress call and immediately dispatched a rescue helicopter to the scene.
After deploying the Cirrus’s BRS parachute, the airplane splashed down in the water, hitting the surface at a speed of about 25 miles per hour. The pair then scrambled from the airplane onto an inflatable life raft and waited for help.
“The most frightening thing for me was seeing the propeller frozen, motionless, in front of a plane that’s in the air,” Elaine McGlaughlin told ABC News.
“We hit the water hard,” Dr. McGlaughlin said. “25 miles per hour is not an incidental collision. We pounded pretty good.”
Once the pair hit the water, they exited the airplane with the liferaft, grasping the parachute line as it inflated.
“The airplane filled up with water quickly, and that was sort of scary too because the doors are all closed but it just comes in the vents, and right away you are waist-deep,” Dr. McGlaughlin said.
McGlaughlin is a gastroenterologist who has used his Cirrus to visit Haiti once a month to assist with the cholera outbreak that followed the 2010 earthquake.
With their ordeal behind them, the McGlaughlins departed at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning on a commercial flight to Haiti.
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