Boater Rescued by Seaplane

** Rusty Eichorn and his Cessna 180 on floats** Lynn Bohanon

An unusual display of the usefulness of general aviation airplanes occurred recently when the life of a 20-year-old boater apparently was saved by an overflying seaplane pilot. What could have ended as a tragic drowning turned into a happy day for the young boater.

Max Trescott describes in his blog about the incident that the pilot, identified as Rusty Eichorn of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, was flying with two other pilots over the Pokegama Lake when he saw a boat moving in a circular pattern described by Eichorn as a "death circle." The reason for the description is that the circling boat indicated to Eichorn that no one was at the controls and that the operator must have fallen into the water.

Eichorn landed his Cessna 180 near the boat and the boater managed to swim to the airplane. He had been treading water without a life vest for 15 to 20 minutes, according to Trescott’s blog, and was becoming hypothermic in the cool spring lake water. Eichorn step-taxied to the Grand Rapids Golf Course where paramedics transported the young man for treatment.

It was getting dark by the time the rescue was complete and it is quite likely that the boater would have died had Eichorn and his friends not been out flying. Eichorn was hailed by the community as a hero, but he said he simply “did what anyone else would have done in the same situation.”

This incident should serve as a reminder that airplanes can be life-saving tools. The pilot’s perspective easily identifies trouble on the ground. And whether he or she relays a message to someone on the ground or lands the airplane to make the rescue, life-saving action can take place quickly.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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