Our good friend Mary was so excited to take this ride in her son's airplane. Everything went well as they flew above the Chesapeake to an island. Suddenly, the engine died and they were forced to land in the water.
Surviving a plane crash is miracle enough, but then to die in the attempt to swim ashore is a tragedy. Mary and her son swam for more than an hour and a half toward a distant shoreline. She was 78 years old, and for her to swim for so long was another miracle.
Finally, exhausted, she told her son that she just couldn't go on any longer. She drowned, leaving him to swim on through the darkness of early evening until he crawled ashore in a swamp and made his way to a house to call for help.
The whole thing leaves me asking how the outcome might have been different. What if they had be able to use the radio to send a mayday to the Coast Guard before hitting the water? What if they had flotation cushions or life vests on the plane? What if a boat had spotted them going down? What if…
There are lessons to be learned from every incident such as this.
- When a plane flies over water, it should be equipped the way a boat would be — with personal flotation devices for each passenger.
- We should anticipate that something might go wrong and we will have to swim or hike to find help.
- We should wear the kind of clothing that would be appropriate for that challenge — sturdy walking shoes, long sleeve, long pants.
- We should know how to use the radio to transmit a distress message.
- We should know how to remain afloat indefinitely without wearing ourselves out by swimming.
- We should have signal flares and other equipment onboard and know how and when to use them.