TODAY | January 23, 2012
>> 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.