Sheriff’s Office dispatchers were initially notified by air traffic control out of Miami that a small aircraft was having trouble with its engine at about 10:30 a.m. today. Initial reports were it was going to make an emergency landing somewhere in the vicinity of Marathon.
Trauma Star had just finished flying a man to Miami after he was injured falling off of a roof; as the helicopter was on its way back to its home base of Marathon, the Pilot – Sheriff’s Aviation Division Director Brooks Bateman - decided to attempt to locate the downed aircraft. Working with coordinates from relayed by dispatch from air traffic control, Bateman plotted the location on a long range navigation computer and discovered the aircraft had actually landed just offshore of the 119 mile marker of Highway U.S. One, just six miles from Trauma Star’s location.
Trauma Star found the plane; it was upright but had lost its landing gear in the swamp when it landed. One of the three men on board was standing on a wing signaling to the helicopter. Bateman radioed for rescue workers to respond to the area. He then found a muddy but solid spot to land about 50 yards from the plane.
After landing, Bateman and firefighter Curtis Teems, who was also on board, waded through the water to the aircraft and found three men alive and only suffering from minor scrapes and abrasions. They were able to bring the three men to Trauma Star where they were checked for injuries by Flight Nurse Sue Deluca. As she was checking them, Teems used a signaling mirror that was on board the helicopter to signal to rescue workers who were trying to locate the downed aircraft from the highway.
A landing zone was set up on Highway U.S. One and Trauma Star was able to safely fly the three men to the highway, where they were met by rescue workers from both Key Largo and Miami Dade County. Also on the scene was Florida Highway Patrol, Miami – Dade Police and firefighters and Monroe County Fire Rescue.