TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Blaine Gabbert was credited with helping rescue four people after a helicopter crashed offshore a yacht club Thursday evening, according to police.
The helicopter crashed into the water near the Davis Island Yacht Club as the football player rode jet skis with his brothers Brett and Tyler, the latter of whom played football at the University of Central Florida from 2010-13. The three heard a faint noise and approached the scene of the wreck, Gabbert said at a news conference Friday.
“It almost looked like a crew boat in the water that had broken up in about four pieces and I vaguely remember seeing, like, two yellow life jackets, so I was like, ‘All right, we got to go check this out,’” Gabbert said. “It looked like they were in duress, we raced over there. The youngest kid had just came up and said he was pinned in there and I asked if anybody else is trapped, and then I called 911, tried to remain as calm as possible but, you know, it all turned positive.”
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Police said the helicopter’s pilot was attempting to land at Peter O’ Knight Airport when all on board reported hearing a loud bang and the aircraft lost power.
By the time law enforcement arrived, the quarterback said he and his brothers had already begun to help the helicopter’s passengers onto their jet skis.
“They were healthy, scared, nervous, but you know, it was just- it was a pretty crappy situation that turned good in the end. So, I was just (in the) right place (at the) right time I guess, the credit really goes out to Tampa PD, you guys, the fire department, the sheriff’s department, because they were there within five seconds, it was pretty remarkable,” Gabbart said at the conference.
The police department posted photos to its social media on Friday that show agency divers helping to recover the crashed helicopter.
Gabbert said that he initially didn’t tell anyone about the rescue, recalling his surprise when Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht asked him about it.
“I got a text from Jason, I think within 30 or 45 minutes. He’s like, ‘Did you just save people from a helicopter crash?’ I was like, ‘Yeah. How’d you hear about it that fast?’ But no, I just- I was doing the right thing. You guys would do the exact same thing that I did. I just happened to be in that situation,” the quarterback said.
Gabbert did not leave the conference thankless, however. He was called a citizen hero, given a Tampa police Marine Unit coin and hat as tokens of gratitude and named an honorary Marine Unit member.
“Our local partners from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Fish and Wildlife (Conservation Commission) and the U.S. Coast Guard also responded for assistance and to help secure the helicopter. The FAA and the NTSB will conduct a full investigation, but I’m so proud of the work of everyone involved in this situation,” Interim Tampa police Chief Lee Bercaw said.
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