Man tells story of escaping helicopter water landing near Tampa’s Peter O Knight Airport

Hunter Hupp, 28, said he had lost hope of getting out of the water and walked out of the Peter O. Knight Airport terminal wrapped in a white sheet just 90 minutes later. He said he still didn’t realize he had survived after being trapped in a submerged helicopter.

Hupp, his 62-year-old father, 59-year-old mother and a 33-year-old pilot were wrapping up a helicopter tour when they had to make an emergency landing about 200 yards from the Davis Islands just after 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Hupp said. Say. All four survived the crash with no injuries.

They were planning to land at the airport when Hepp said he heard the rotors pop overhead. Tampa Police Lt. Daniel College said the helicopter’s engine failed. Hupp said the helicopter was unable to return to the airport.

“I’m surprised I’m standing here talking to you,” Hepp said in an interview at the airport.

Hepp arrived in Tampa from his home in Philadelphia on Saturday. The helicopter tour – flying over Tampa and the beach before returning to Davis Islands Airport – was a Christmas present. He said he had never been in a helicopter, nor had his parents – his dad was afraid of heights.

After Thursday’s experience, they don’t plan to fly in a helicopter again, Hupp said.

When the helicopter plunged into the water and began to sink, Hopp said he became entangled in the harness and rope. He said he struggled to get out when his parents and pilot escaped and climbed to the surface.

“I would have liked to be the third out,” Hopp joked.

Hope said he started to give up, but he thought about his parents floating above him. He said he thought about what they would go through if he drowned, so he made another attempt to get out of the helicopter.

Finally, he freed himself. Hupp estimates he spent between 45 seconds and a minute underwater.

The Tampa Police Department said in a release that it is “currently coordinating with local and federal agencies regarding the investigation and eventual recovery of the helicopter.”

Hepp said he had dinner reservations with his parents on Thursday night. Those plans were scrapped once they got back to shore, he said.

Instead, Hupp said, he plans to buy takeout sushi and drink “all that bourbon.”

Stay informed about what's happening in Tampa

Stay informed about what’s happening in Tampa

Subscribe to our free Tampa Times newsletter

You’ll receive a twice-weekly roundup of the biggest news from the Tampa community.

You are all signed up!

Want to receive more of our free weekly newsletter in your inbox? let’s start.

explore all options