By Terrance Turner
Dec. 30, 2022
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert helped rescue four people after a helicopter crashed into the water near Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa, Florida last night.
Philadelphian Hunter Hupp arrived in Tampa on Saturday. 28-year-old Hupp, his 62-year-old father, and his 59-year-old mother went on a helicopter tour led by a 33-year-old pilot. The tour was a Christmas gift to the Hupp family, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The tour was supposed to fly out over Tampa and the beaches before returning to the airport in Davis Islands.
Hupp said he’d never been in a helicopter before. Neither had his parents — his father’s afraid of heights. That fear makes a lot of sense now, considering what happened next.
Around 5 pm, Hupp said he heard a loud noise above his head. (Tampa Police say the helicopter’s engine failed.) The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing about 200 yards from shore. But the helicopter crashed into Hillsborough Bay.
Sinking And Rescue
Hupp’s parents and the pilot made it out of the helicopter as it began taking on water. But Hupp was trapped under seatbelts and cords. He struggled to free himself. He thought about giving up, but wondered what his parents would go through if he drowned. So he gave it one last try.
This time, Hupp freed himself after about a minute. He made it to the surface, joining the other three passengers. The four of them floated together, only inches of the helicopter showing above the water, contemplating whether to wait for help or try to swim to land while fully clothed.
Then three men arrived on jet skis. One of them was Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who lives on Davis Island.
According to Fox Sports, the other two men were Gabbert’s brothers Brett and Tyler. Gabbert had taken them to a nearby yacht club. He and his brothers had been riding on a jet ski around 5 p.m. when the helicopter crashed.
“I vaguely remember hearing a faint noise,” Gabbert said today. He looked and saw the crash site. “It almost looked like a crew boat in the water that had broken up into about four pieces.”
Gabbert and his brothers went to go investigate. Then they found the floating foursome in the water. After he called 911, Gabbert and his brothers sprang into action. They helped Hupp’s father Wes onto one jet ski and Hupp and his mother Lisa onto another.
“They slowly brought us back to the shore, a sandy beach near the yacht club, and hung out for a while, were really nice,” Hupp said. “We exchanged pleasantries upon reaching flat ground. They were really an asset to helping us out, because we were the only ones out there for a while. It was a handshake and a hug and, ‘Thank you so much.’ They went out for a nice afternoon ride and just happened to come upon a stranded helicopter family.”
Tampa Police arrived shortly thereafter. Hupp eventually made it to the airport, located just five minutes from downtown Tampa. “Barely 90 minutes after he said he lost hope of making it out of the water, Hunter Hupp, 28, walked out of the Peter O. Knight Airport terminal wrapped in a white sheet,” wrote Times reporter Matt Cohen.
All four of those rescued survived. Now Gabbert is being hailed as a hero. But he sees things differently. “I was just [in the] right place, right time, I guess,” he humbly noted.