Downed flier pulled from frigid waters just in time

February 24, 1992|By Meredith Schlow and David Michael Ettlin | Meredith Schlow and David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writers Staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

A young pilot narrowly escaped death yesterday when the engine of his two-seater airplane failed and the craft crashed and sank near an uninhabited island in the Magothy River.

Anthony Raymond Lee, 25, of Arnold was found hanging onto a floating airplane seat in the frigid Magothy waters when a state Natural Resources officer arrived by boat at the crash scene minutes later.

"He probably wouldn't have been able to hold on much longer," said Cpl. John Malecki. "He was very fortunate."

Corporal Malecki said he had arrived for work at his Deep Creek pier about 15 minutes before the scheduled 10 a.m. shift, as is his custom, and received word of the plane crash off Dobbins Island from his dispatcher at 9:48 a.m.

Within minutes, Corporal Malecki said, he had reached the site about midway between Gibson Island and the Deep Creek landing. First he spotted a floating airplane wheel that had been knocked off the two-seater craft by the impact and, a few hundred feet away, Mr. Lee clinging to the seat. The airplane had already sunk, he said.

Corporal Malecki pulled Mr. Lee into his patrol boat and rode across the river to Deep Creek to summon an ambulance.

"He could hardly talk," said the corporal, a 23-year police veteran.

Mr. Lee, surviving the accident with what appeared to be facial cuts, broken teeth and hypothermia, managed to tell Corporal Malecki that his engine had failed. He was listed in stable and satisfactory condition last night at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis.

Police said that minor oil leakage resulting from the crash was reported to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Authorities said the pilot had left Lee Airport in Edgewater just after 9:30 a.m., flown northward across the Broadneck peninsula and crashed about 10 minutes later. Divers found the airplane under about 12 feet of water. The plane was retrieved with the assistance of a pile-driving barge from a pier-construction company.

The aircraft, its nose crumpled by the impact, was taken to a private home on Parks Creek and examined by Federal Aviation Administration investigators.

Hans Dijkman, a flight instructor at Lee Airport, had little information on the crash but said that Mr. Lee, who kept his plane there, is "not new" to flying.

The pilot would not talk with a reporter last night, a nursing supervisor at the medical center said.

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