From Ensign Jahanna Conner and Anne Owens
ROCKPORT, Texas – Two instructor pilots (IP) and two student naval aviators (SNA) assigned to the “Rangers” of Training Squadron (VT) 28, Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, assisted with a search and rescue mission after a civilian aircraft crash landed in Copano Bay in Rockport, Texas, Nov. 15.
The Navy pilots and a Coast Guard helicopter crew partnered with a civilian vessel to make the successful rescue.
Lt. Bradley Williams (IP) and Ensign Kyle Brazas (SNA) were en route to Mustang Beach airport, flying a T-6B Texan II, during routine training flight. At approximately 7:55 a.m., Corpus Christi air traffic control (ATC) contacted the crew to request assistance in locating a downed civilian aircraft. ATC informed the crew they had lost contact with the civilian aircraft and did not have its exact location.
Lt. Kitti Kopar, IP, and Marine 2nd Lt. Daniel Cerezo, SNA, in another T-6B Texan II, also joined the search. The plan was for Williams and Brazas to fly 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL) north of Rockport airport and the second crew to fly 1,500 AGL south of the airport. Williams spotted the downed aircraft approximately two miles away from the airport. To verify, Williams flew down to 500 AGL and began circling the aircraft, which he found with the tail sticking out of the water and the pilot standing on one of the wings.
Williams relayed the information to Kopar, who was flying higher and had better reception. Kopar passed the location of the wreckage to ATC.
“As an aviator, I feel it’s my duty to assist my fellow pilots in any way possible during a time of need,” Williams said. “I’m glad we were able to assist the crew and that they were quickly pulled out of the water. I’m thankful for my training during my time in the United States Navy as a Maritime Patrol Aircraft Commander in Search and Rescue. It was because of this training and practicing this scenario multiple times that I knew exactly what to do.”
Cmdr. Dawn Prebula, Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi response department head, was the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator (SMC) for the incident.
“We are grateful for a positive outcome in this case,” Prebula said. “The Coast Guard quickly launched a helicopter and small boat once we received the report of a downed aircraft, but also had the assistance of many partners. A good Samaritan was on scene within a few minutes and was able to determine the pilot was okay and to transport to emergency medical services for full evaluation.”
Two civilian boats noticed the Navy aircraft circling, located the crash, and rendered assistance to the stranded pilot. At approximately 8:10 a.m., a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, piloted by Coast Guard Lt. Tevin White and Coast Guard Lt. Caleb Wadsworth, with Aviation Maintenance Technician Adam Rodriguez and Aviation Survival Technician Salvador Anguimo, launched from Corpus Christi International Airport (KCRP). The rescue crew was on scene within 10 minutes to provide further assistance and received details of the incident from the Navy pilots. Coast Guard personnel successfully rescued the civilian and returned to KCRP.
CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat-quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.