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Video: Plane crash rescue ‘reaffirms faith in people’

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    >> tropical getaway for a family from texas that turned into a fight for survival when their sight-seeing plane crashed into the ocean. we'll talk to a survivor coming up. first, their harrowing story.

    >> the texas couple was flying with their 4-year-old son when the plane crashed. miraculously, kind strangers were in the right place at the right time to pull off an amazing rescue. a plane ride through paradise for the atkins family. they were hoping to enjoy the sights along the coast of roatan in the caribbean off honduras . andy atkins had flown in the same plane just months before.

    >> it was an awesome, fun ride. great views, great pictures. a low flying plane that felt very stable.

    >> reporter: last week, with his wife generaljenny and 4-year-old son logan along, something went wrong.

    >> we lost an engine and crashed into the ocean, flipped over. we were stuck under water.

    >> they're all out.

    >> reporter: larry forsyth was on a nearby boat when he saw the crash.

    >> holy --

    >> reporter: his son paul captured video of the dramatic rescue.

    >> we all dove in and swam just as quickly as we could. the timing was impeccable. we were just at the right place at the right time.

    >> reporter: only moments before, the plane's pilot helped andy get to the surface but there was no sign of andy 's wife or son.

    >> i dove back under looking for them. didn't find them the first time. came back, got air, went immediately back down. i just came up and had logan in my arms and by the time i got to the surface, jenny was also at the surface with the pilot holding her. we were all still in shock at that point. you know, we knew we had survived the initial crash. but we didn't know where it was going to go from there.

    >> reporter: remarkably, a u.s. navy doctor and another physician were among the divers who risked their lives to save the family.

    >> they screamed there were two doctors on board. they got them on the back of the boat, got them oxygen, treated them with all their skill.

    >> reporter: the entire family spent days in a hospital before returning home thursday night.

    >> it reaffirms your faith in people and humanity that so many people stepped in to help that didn't have to.

    >> reporter: the atkins are already planning another trip to roatan and said the accident brought them closer to the island and the people there. savannah a?

    >> amy, thank you. andy atkins is with us now exclusively. good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> i know you just returned from honduras . you and your family spent time in the hospital. how are you all feeling today?

    >> we're out of the hospital. we're getting better day by day.

    >> this was a low flying plane. as you mentioned it was for the purpose of sight-seeing. as i understand it, this happened really fast. what do you remember about the crash?

    >> really, all i remember is i didn't know we were going to crash before it happened. i looked out the window, out the side of the plane and could see the ocean and the reef. i guess part of me thought it looked a little close. then really the next thing i knew i was upside down in the water, still strapped in. wondering what happened. it took me a second of talking to my brain, you know, to realize, wow, we really crashed. you're not dead. but you've got to get out of here before you drown.

    >> you say the pilot actually helped you get free of your seat belt . you came up for air and then what was your first thought?

    >> well, i want to point out that mr. brown, our pilot was in the accident, too. he did everything he could to get us out of the plane. he helped me out. when i was fumbling with the straps and got me to the surface first. as soon as i got there i asked what happened. he said, we lost an engine. he said, where's my wife and kid. he and i started diving down. the first time i couldn't find anything. quickly came back up, dove down again. by that time i think he had helped my wife get out. she pushed the baby with her last bit of consciousness to me. as i brought him to the surface there she was, too, at the surface almost at exactly the same time.

    >> there you are in the water. already miraculous you survived the crash and you get another lucky break . some people in the area came over with a boat and rescued you, right?

    >> people from a parasailing boat raced to the scene as fast as they could get there. they were the first boat there. larry forsyth, retired air canada pilot of vancouver, canada , and tranquility bay resort in honduras dived in to save us . his cousin of cold lake , canada , dived in. but the first one in the water was a man named cooney, a local man from honduras . he was the first one in the water. he's the one that took my boy from me and got him out of the water.

    >> andy , you are blessed indeed.

    >> i love you, cooney.

    >> another boat had doctors on it. is there any doubt in your mind that the care helped save your lives?

    >> my wife and son, i'm not sure what the outcome would have been without the doctors. i shudder to think. they were the second boat that came up. their captain and crew were outstanding. fortunately they had two doctors -- a doctor from montreal, canada , dr. mark arsenault. [speaking french].

    >> and a united states navy doctor who asked to be named as a u.s. navy physician. they treated them the whole way.

    >> you're blessed indeed. what an ordeal for you. we're glad your family is okay. thanks for being with us, sir. we appreciate it.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 1/23/2012 9:06:43 AM ET 2012-01-23T14:06:43

Some quick-thinking Good Samaritans were lifesavers for a Texas family whose small seaplane crashed into the Caribbean.

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Video: Plane crash rescue ‘reaffirms faith in people’ (on this page)

Andy Atkins, wife Jenny and their 4-year-old son Logan were taking an air tour along the coast of Roatan, a small island near Honduras, on January 11 when disaster struck: The engine cut out and the seaplane crashed into the water. But incredible good fortune smiled down upon the Dallas, Texas family — passengers in a nearby boat jumped into the water to retrieve them and two doctors aboard a nearby second boat quickly treated the injured trio.

"My wife and son, I'm not sure what the outcome would have been without those doctors," Atkins, an attorney, told Savannah Guthrie live from Dallas on TODAY Monday. "I just shudder to think."

Atkins said he was comfortable taking his family into the air for some sight-seeing that day — just two months prior, he had taken the same aerial trip with some pals from college. And while the plane hovered just a few hundred feet above the water, Atkins said there wasn't even time to realize they were in imminent danger.

TODAY
The Atkins family's dramatic rescue from a seaplane crash was captured on video by nearby boaters.

"I looked out the window, out the side of the plane and I could see the ocean and the reef," he told Guthrie. "I guess part of me thought it looked a little close. Really, the next thing I know, I was upside down in the water...still strapped in and wondering what happened.

"It took me just a second of talking to my brain to realize, wow, we really crashed and you're not dead, but you've got to get out of here before you drown."

Among many to thank, Atkins first credits the plane's quick-thinking pilot who helped free him from his seat restraints. "He got me to the surface...I asked him what happened, and he said we lost an engine," Atkins said. "I said, 'Where's my wife and kid?' and he said, 'I don't know.'"

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Atkins dived down to locate his family but had to resurface for air before making a second attempt. On that second attempt the pilot was already freeing wife and son.

"He had gotten my wife and had helped her get out, and she pushed the baby with her last bit of consciousness to me," he said "As I brought him to the surface there she was at the surface almost at exactly the same time."

A nearby parasailing boat with a retired pilot among its passengers witnessed the crash and made a bee-line to the wreck. As video shot onboard dramatically captured, the passengers began diving in to rescue the family.

One rescuer told NBC: "We all dove in and swam just as quickly as we could...the timing was impeccable; we were just at the right place at the right time."

On board a second boat were two physicians — one a U.S. Navy doctor — who sprang to action to help Atkins' wife and son. "They got both of them on the back of that boat to give them oxygen and treated them with all their skill," Atkins told NBC News in Dallas-Fort Worth.

TODAY
Andy Atkins, his wife, Jenny and son, Logan, 4 are "getting better every day" since their dramatic crash and rescue.
Story: Teen may never go home after sailing round the world

Atkins told Guthrie the doctors "treated them the whole way" back to shore. And after a four-day hospital stay, the family is now back home in Texas.

"We're out of the hospital and we're getting better every day," he said.

Atkins told NBC News in Dallas-Fort Worth his family's brush with death came with a silver lining.

"It reaffirms your faith in people and humanity that so many people stepped in to help that didn't have to," he said. "We appreciate that we feel like we've been given a second chance, and we want to try to help other people when we see other people that need help."

Atkins said the family now feels a strong bond with the people of the area and will certainly return to Roatan in the future, although, he added, "We're not going to be going up in any planes like that."

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