'Hypothermia was going to be a problem': Kayakers rescue pilot who crashed into Maryland creek

Tuesday, December 27, 2022
VIDEO: Kayakers rescue crashed airplane pilot from icy creek
A pilot who crashed his plane into Beards Creek in Maryland was rescued by a good Samaritan.

BALTIMORE, MD -- A pilot who crashed his plane into Beards Creek in Maryland was rescued by a good Samaritan.

Both the pilot, identified as 71-year-old Steve Couchman, from Frederick, and the man who rescued him are doing OK.

The day after Christmas started off with a scare.

John Gelinne said he and his family were in their house on Beards Creek when they saw a Piper Cherokee single-engine plane barreling toward them.

Police said the crash happened moments after the plane took off near Lee Airport in Edgewater. Investigators said the engine of the plane was sputtering.

Shortly afterward, witnesses heard and saw the plane crash into Beards Creek.

"When we all looked, we knew there was a problem," John Gelinne said. "He was heading at us kinda badly and then he banged hard left."

Gelinne, who used to be in the Navy, sprang into action, grabbed his kayak and headed out onto the icy creek.

"I used my shovel on the ice and I just slid the kayak on the ice from here to there," Gelinne said. "Then, when I got to aircraft, it was in the water, he was kind of hanging on to the back tail and I knew hypothermia was going to be a problem."

While the plane was sinking, the pilot exited his plane and stood on the wing. Once the kayakers were close enough, the pilot was able to hang on to one of them to stay afloat.

Gelinne said he threw the pilot a life preserver, getting him out of the water until rescue crews could come.

Gelinne's son also came out on a kayak to assist them.

"He said he was losing his engine," Gelinne said. "He was very calm. I think hypothermia might have been starting to come in."

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department helped with the rescue.

An officer cut through the ice and pulled the pilot safely into the boat and transported him to the Annapolis Landing Marina nearby where the pilot was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

"We're just very thankful that those two kayakers were there and heroic efforts that they did to make that rescue," Anne Arundel County Fire Department Lt. Jennifer Macallair said. "They probably saved that pilot's life today."

Before the pilot was taken to the hospital, Gelinne said he wanted to thank him.

"You were actually heading for my house and you turned this plane and you didn't hit my house, and for that, I really want to thank you, because I did really want to thank him," Gelinne said.

Anne Arundel County Fire said it was difficult to break through the ice on the creek to get to where the plane crashed.

State Police are now handling the investigation into the crash.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

The-CNN-Wire & 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.