Quick-thinking kayakers are being hailed as heroes after helping rescue a pilot whose single-engine plane crashed Monday morning into an icy creek in Maryland, authorities said.
The aircraft plummeted into Beards Creek in Edgewater near the Lee Airport shortly before 10:30 a.m., according to Maryland State Police.
The Piper Cherokee plane was piloted by Steve Couchman, 71, of Frederick.
His plane began to sputter shortly after takeoff from the Lee Airport, police said.
Couchman was rescued, police said, by three alert kayakers.
“Two nearby civilians and an on-duty police officer from the Anne Arundel County Police Department who heard the call, used three kayaks to skim across the iced creek to provide assistance to the pilot. 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,” police said in a statement.
Shortly after, personnel with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources arrived by boat, police said. There, an officer cut through the ice and pulled the pilot into the boat. Couchman was transported by ambulance to a hospital.
Edgewater is about 35 miles south of Baltimore.
The kayakers’ quick response prevented the pilot from getting hypothermia, Anne Arundel County Fire Department Lt. Jennifer Macallair said in a video posted by NBC affiliate WBAL of Baltimore. Macallair said the pilot’s injuries were not considered life-threatening.
“Their efforts were heroic today,” she said, referring to the two civilian kayakers. “Our crews were dealing with ice on the creek this morning, which is obviously very dangerous for anybody in the water. Hypothermia can set in within minutes. So the fact that these two individuals were able to recognize what happened and got into their kayaks and went out there, absolutely probably saved his life.”
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed in a statement the type of plane that crashed and said it occurred just west of the airport. The cause of the crash was not immediately known Monday.
Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.