Friend Comes To His Rescue
A pilot flying his SeaRay homebuilt amphibian to the Lakeland
Fly-In last week fell short of his destination, when his plane
crashed after takeoff from a central Florida lake... but he's alive
to tell the tale, thanks in large part to the efforts of his
Along with fellow seaplane flyer Phil Mendelson, pilot Bill Furr
was departing Lake Jessup Thursday when his plane (file photo of
type, shown below) suddenly nosed over into the water. Mendelson,
who had taken off before Furr, was shocked when he looked back and
saw his friend's plane upside down in the water.
"I had looked away briefly, and when I looked back, Bill's
seaplane was upside down in the water. I didn't see his head, so I
radioed in the emergency call," Mendelson told The Orlando
Mendelson wheeled his plane around, and set back down on the
lake, known for having a large alligator population. As he
approached the wreckage, he was relieved to see Furr pop up in the
water -- his face bloodied, but still alive.
"It was such a violent entry that it broke the windshield canopy
away, which helped him get out of the aircraft," Mendelson
Furr managed to pull himself partly onto the floating wreckage
of his plane... but he wasn't out of the woods, and Mendelson was
afraid to try pulling him up any more, out of concern for possible
"I was worried because his face was bleeding, and there was
blood in the water and there were five or six alligators in the
distance," Mendelson said. "I didn't want him to pass out and
So Mendelson instead fast-taxied his plane over to the shore
near his house, a quarter-mile away, and got into his fishing boat.
"By the time I got back, Bill was bleeding quite a bit worse. He
said his leg was hurting. He didn't want to get in my boat at
first. But I insisted. He kept telling me he couldn't, so I sort of
hoisted him into the boat while trying to be as gentle as
By the time Mendelson turned his boat back to shore, an
ambulance was waiting to transport Furr to a local hospital. He is
now recovering from a broken ankle, nose, and numerous
"I'm going to live, I guess, but I could have easily bought the
farm," Furr told the paper Friday from his hospital bed. "All I
remember is powering up to take off, and that was pretty much it,"
Furr said. "The next thing I knew I was sitting on the upside-down
plane and my buddy was coming by boat to get me."
A preliminary investigation by the FAA discovered a loose
locating bolt on the SeaRay's horizontal stabilizer, Mendelson
said. That led the stabilizer to separate from Furr's plane.
"For Bill, [the impact] was like running into a brick wall," he
added. "But the airplane took the brunt of it."
Mendelson wound up driving to Lakeland on Friday.
Make/Model: EXP Description:
Date: 04/10/2008 Time: 1240
Event Type: Incident Highest Injury:
None Mid Air: N Missing:
City: SANFORD State: FL Country:
AIRCRAFT CRASHED ONTO LAKE JESSUP UNDER UNKNOWN
CIRCUMSTANCES, 3.5 MILES
FROM SANFORD, FL
INJURY DATA Total
# Crew: 1 Fat:
# Pass: 0 Fat:
Fat: 0 Ser:
WEATHER: 1247Z SP 04005KT 10SM CLR 21/17 A3007
Activity: Unknown Phase:
Unknown Operation: OTHER
FAA FSDO: ORLANDO, FL
Entry date: 04/11/2008