‘Good Samaritans’: NFL Quarterback And Brothers Praised After Jet Ski Rescue Of Helicopter Crash Survivors

NFL quarterback Blaine Gabbert and his brothers aided in the rescue of four people whose helicopter had crashed into Hillsborough Bay in Florida.

Gabbert, a backup quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and his two brothers, were out on jet skis when they came upon a helicopter crash Thursday night.

“I vaguely remember hearing a faint noise,” Gabbert, 33, said, according to ESPN. “I just remember looking to the west and seeing … it almost looked like a crew boat in the water that had broken up in about four pieces. And I vaguely remember seeing like two yellow life jackets, so I’m like, ‘All right, we’ve got to go check this out.’”

The brothers rode their jet skis out to find Wesley, Lisa, and Hunter Hupp, as well as pilot Rafael Ciriac, floating in the water and covered in oil after their craft crashed into the waters. Hunter had initially been trapped in the helicopter, but was able to escape to the surface.

Gabbert said that Hunter had just surfaced when he and his brothers arrived. “The youngest kid had just came up and said he was pinned in there and I asked if anyone else was trapped and then I called 911, tried to remain as calm as possible,” he said.

The helicopter had crashed into the bay after losing power enroute to Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa. “Just please hold on tight. We’ll get to the beach quick, get you dried off, get you a coffee, get you warmed up,” Gabbert told Lisa, the wife of Wesley and mother of Hunter.

The brothers helped take the four to their nearby boat in what Tampa Police Officer Dan Spears called a “pretty impressive feat.”

“One of the most dangerous circumstances on aircraft is a water landing just due to the inversion of the helicopter and trying to escape that and not get trapped in,” he said. “So it was a very amazing circumstance that everybody got out.”

Gabbert, who has been in the NFL since being drafted out of Missouri in 2011, helped the crash survivors onto their crafts and out of the water while waiting for emergency services to arrive.

“I was expecting the worst-case scenario once I pulled up and realized it was a helicopter,” he said. “I tried to get them on the Jet Skis as fast as I could just to get them out of the water because it was pretty chilly yesterday on the water. You don’t want to have them in there for too long.”

The department thanked the “good Samaritans” who helped rescue the passengers and pilot.

“We often say that we cannot do our jobs well without the community and that we are safer together,” Interim Chief Lee Bercaw said. “Yesterday was an amazing example of how teamwork, not only in the sports world but also in our hometown, is why our area is known as Champa Bay.”

Bercaw named Gabbert a honorary member of the Tampa Bay Marine Patrol, while the NFL veteran credited the policemen for their quick response.

“I was at the right place at the right time, I guess. The credit really goes out to Tampa PD — you guys, the fire department, the sheriff’s department, because they were there within five seconds. It was pretty remarkable,” he said.

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