MIAMI BEACH – (CBSMIAMI.com) – A helicopter pilot was rescued Sunday afternoon by the US Coast Guard after his crashed into the ocean about 20 miles off the coast of South Florida.
The US Coast Guard said the pilot, Jeff Mandel of Miami and the Bahamas, was headed to Nassau when the helicopter experienced engine problems, and he was forced to put down in the ocean.
The pilot, who has 17 years experience but just one year as a helicopter pilot, was the only person aboard the helicopter, which remained afloat.
“It was tense but coming down I didn’t panic,” recalled Mandel. “I knew what to do I had gone through some great training.”
He said it turned out to be a textbook emergency landing that could not have gone any better. “I’m happy to be home,” he said. “I’m grateful that I put floats on the helicopter. Had I not had floats it would have been a completely different situation a far more disastrous situation.”
It was only about 10 to 15 minutes before a family boating by noticed Mandel in his helicopter floating in the ocean. By then Mandel had already called for help. But the Behar family was able to assist by giving the precise location to the coast guard.
“We gave the coordinates of the down chopper and within a few minutes the rescue helicopter arrived on the scene,” said Robert Behar.
The first boat on the scene was the Contingency, which remained with the pilot until the Coast Guard arrived. A Coast Guard helicopter used a rescue harness to bring the man aboard so he could be taken to the Cutter Drummond.
US Coast Guard spokesman Nick Ameen said the pilot is generally well, but showed signs of shock. Once on land at base Miami, Mandel praised the Coast Guard for their professionalism during his rescue.
H2O Marine Towing and Salvage was sent to the location of the craft to recover the helicopter, which will also be returned to Haulover Marina.