A pilot whose fightertold CBS affiliate KGMB he's recovering from back surgery after he was left with a crushed vertebrae and spinal fracture.off the Hawaii coast last week is recounting how he ejected from the plane and how a good Samaritan parasailer came his aid. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash, which happened during a training exercise with the Hawaii Air National Guard. Pilot Matt Pothier, 47, a civilian contractor,
Pothier told the station from his hospital bed he was flying around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon, about a mile offshore from Honolulu's Kewalo Basin, when his airplane "didn't want to fly anymore." He said he attempted to fly back to the runway at the Honolulu Airport, about three miles away, but he didn't have the altitude or the airspeed. Video captured the Hawker Hunter jet quickly going down.
"I remember the whole thing. I remember the canopy coming off. I saw some daylight," Pothier told the station.
He quickly made the decision to eject from the plane.
"I'm just looking down at the water and I'm seeing all sorts of boats, and I don't want to hurt those folks, either," Pothier said. "I just made a couple of turns and realized the airplane's not gonna make it, so I just pulled the handle and got out."
Pothier was able to eject, but he suffered a back injury which made it difficult for him to disentangle from his parachute as it filled up with water. Facing the danger of being dragged underwater, a parasail instructor who was in a nearby boat, Mack Ladner, jumped in the water to help him until the Coast Guard arrived.
"It was kind of a lot of adrenaline, I didn't, I've never seen anything like that," Ladner said. "When I got in the water, you know, I was asking him like 'Are you OK?' and he's like, 'Yeah my back hurts a little bit from the compression,' and he had a little blood coming out. I think it might have been [from] the impact, because I mean he was going pretty fast."
The two reunited at the hospital on Friday, the station reports.
"You can't ask for a better more qualified person to be right there in an ejection scenario than Mack was. I was the most fortunate person ever," Pothier said.
The station reports Pothier, a retired U.S. Navy F-18 pilot, has flown more than 4,200 hours in tactical aircraft and more than 100 combat missions, but said this was the first time he had to eject from an aircraft.
The Hawaii Air National Guard temporarily suspended its military exercise, which involved about 800 personnel and 30 planes, following the crash. Pothier said he didn't want to speak to the potential cause of the crash pending the NTSB investigation. He says he expects to make a full recovery.