MATINICUS, Maine — Last week U.S. Coast Guard Station Rockland presented two fishermen with awards for their efforts in helping to rescue a pilot and three passengers after their plane crash landed in the ocean in July.
“In my years with the Coast Guard, I have responded to a number of plane crashes over water,” said Sebastian Arnsdorf, commanding officer of the station. “The outcome of this particular crash was truly a miracle. If not for the valiant actions of every one of the fishermen that responded, this incident would have been the deadly tragedy.”
Arnsdorf traveled to the island of Matinicus on Nov. 9 to present the awards to Clayton Philbrook and Robert Young.
During the ceremony, Arnsdorf recounted what happened the evening of July 17 when pilot Robert Hoffman took off from Matinicus and began flying the single-engine five-passenger Cessna 206 toward the mainland. As the plane crept to 200 feet, something went wrong — perhaps an engine malfunction — and the plane’s power went out. Hoffman quickly turned the plane into the wind, and was able to “ditch” the plane about 150 meters off the island, Arnsdorf related.
Once the plane hit saltwater, Hoffman got his three passengers out of the airplane through his captain’s window. Within minutes the plane sank to the ocean floor and the survivors were left clinging to a piece of wreckage.
That’s when the plane’s system sent a signal to a military satellite saying something was wrong, Arnsdorf continued. Penobscot Island Air service sent out a second Cessna to find the first. The pilot of the second plane saw the wreckage and circled the survivors, while calling for help over the radio. That’s where Philbrook and Young come in, according to Arnsdorf. The two fishermen heard the call over their radios, jumped in their lobster boats and sped to the site where they hauled the survivors into their boats.
“Your actions that day saved four lives. From this lifesaver to you: Job well done,” Arnsdorf said.