Plane Was "Flying Low" When It Impacted Lake
A man fishing on Utah's Lake Powell caught some serious fish
Sunday morning, in the form of Olympic wrestling champion Rulon
Gardner was a passenger in a Cirrus SR22 (file photo of type,
below) with two other men from Utah -- pilot Randy Brooks, and his
brother Leslie -- when it crashed in Lake Powell on Saturday,
Garfield County public information officer Becki Bronson told ANN.
Bronson added the plane was "flying low to the water" when it
impacted the lake.
The three men were able to exit the aircraft before it sank, and
swam for more than an hour in frigid water before spending the
night without shelter, according to Bronson.
After they were discovered by a fisherman on the lake, the three
men were initially taken to Bullfrog Marina where National Park
Service Ranger Medics examined them. Instead of an AIRVAC
helicopter, the three opted for Brooks' son-in-law to fly them to
American Fork for further medical evaluation. All suffered
hypothermic injuries to their feet, but no life-threatening
injuries were reported.
"It takes only about 30 minutes for someone swimming in 44
degree water to start suffering the effects of hypothermia, so the
fact that they swam in it for an hour, not to mention surviving the
plane crash and the night without fire or shelter, is pretty
amazing," said Steven Luckesen, a district ranger at Glen Canyon
National Recreation Area. "If these guys were a cat with nine
lives, they just used up three of them."
The exact location of the crash is still uncertain, and is
believed to be near the Garfield County/San Juan County border
running through Lake Powell in Good Hope Bay. An investigation is
Rulon Gardner is a two-time Olympic champion and three time
national champion in Greco-Roman wrestling. At the 2000 Olympics in
Sydney, Gardner made history with a win over then-undefeated
Alexandre Karelin, in what was dubbed the 'Miracle of the Mat'.
On Monday, Gardner -- who also survived a bad
motorcycle crash in 2004, and being stranded during a 2002
snowmobile expedition -- told ESPN's Dan Patrick the plane was
flying approximately 30 feet off the water just before the crash.
He believes the left main landing gear hit the water first, and
caused the plane to cartwheel.
In an earlier interview on NBC's Today Show, Gardner said, "We
kinda came down then we skipped once then hit a second time. That's
when we dug in and the propeller stopped. That just spun us, then
we just kinda went nose down into the water."