Commercial Flight Passenger's Locate Distressed Sailor At Sea - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Commercial Flight Passenger's Step Up To The Plate And Locate Distressed Sailor At Sea

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KHQ.COM – Australian Sailor, Glenn Ey, alone on his yacht at sea, found himself scared for his life and helpless when an enormous 70-foot wave, in the midst of extremely rough seas, flipped his thirty-six-foot yacht, breaking the mast. He had been en route from Pittwater, Sydney to New South Wales but suddenly found himself stranded hundreds of kilometers off the coast, low on fuel and constantly drifting further and further from shore.

Knowing that his tiny yacht in the middle of the ocean was comparable to a needle in a haystack, he wondered when and if anyone would be able to find him. Luckily, 16 hours after his craft capsized, an unexpected rescue team spotted him from above.

On Tuesday, October 8th, an emergency beacon notified the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at 8:15 a.m. that Ey was in distress. An Air Canada commercial jumbo jet en route from Vancouver to Sydney happened to be the closest aircraft to Ey's estimated location. Captain Andrew Robertson was piloting the flight carrying 270 passengers and 18 crewmembers and was contacted by Australian air traffic control asking to help find the yacht. After confirming the jet had enough fuel he accepted the call to action and without a single complaint from passengers, dropped the plane down from 38,000 feet to 5,000 feet.

With boinoculars provided by a passenger on board and many eyes searching the sea, a crewmember spotted something almost right away. Capt. Robertson then descended to about 3,700 feet, a pretty low level for a 777 to be doing a search and rescue, but getting closer gave them a much better look and sure enough, they had located Ey and his yacht.

A few hours after being spotted, Ey was rescued, returning to Sydney nearly 24 hours later.

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick reported that everyone on board was extremely happy about the outcome, even though it added an extra 90 minutes to their flight.

NBC news quoted Ey saying, "It's extraordinary. The noise is like an explosion. You are upside down, smashing around inside the boat filling up with water.

"A wave came along, a huge wave, and it just rolled me over and I smashed into the roof of the yacht and then I was back on the table of the yacht. The boat flooded with water. You do think your number's up."

Today, he is still thanking the captain, crew and passengers aboard the jet for possibly saving his life and says he's grateful for the little things.

This story was filed and written by KHQ's Nichole Mischke. Email her at Nichole.Kiefer@KHQ.com 

Do you think most passengers today would be just as willing to divert their flight to search for someone lost at sea?

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