Rescuers use kayaks to reach pilot after crash in icy creek

EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) — Rescuers used kayaks to reach the pilot of a small airplane that crashed into an icy creek near a Maryland airport and began to sink, state police said.

Witnesses told police that moments after the Piper Cherokee took off from Lee Airport in Edgewater on Monday, they heard it sputter and crash into Beards Creek, Maryland State Police said in a news release. An Anne Arundel County police officer who heard the call and two people nearby jumped into action, using kayaks on the frozen creek, police said.

John Gelinne Sr., a retired naval officer, said he thought the plane would hit his home before it crashed in the creek, news outlets reported.

“We saw the bottom of the aircraft, very close, and then it skipped and then went in the water right there,” he said.

Gelinne and his son, John Gelinne Jr., a Marine, grabbed kayaks and used shovels to skim across the ice to the pilot, whom authorities identified as Steve Couchman.

Couchman, 71, of Prince Frederick, was standing on the wing as the plane sank and stayed afloat by hanging on to a kayak, police said.

“He was very calm,” Gelinne said. “I think hypothermia might have been starting to come in.”

Department of Natural Resources Police arrived on a boat, cut through the ice and pulled Couchman to safety, police said. He was then taken to a hospital, where he was treated for injuries from the crash.

The Gelinnes acted “heroically” and likely saved Couchman’s life, said Anne Arundel County Fire Department Lt. Jennifer Macallair.

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