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Wrestling Coach Makes Water Rescue

BU’s Sean Gray saves two people after witnessing plane crash

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Sean Gray, assistant coach of the BU wrestling team, rushed to the rescue after witnessing a plane crash.

When a floatplane plunged into the waters of Glen Lake in New York last month, Sean Gray didn’t hesitate. He spun his Jet Ski around and rushed to the scene, helping to rescue two people on board.

The assistant coach of the BU wrestling team had been visiting family friends in the Glens Falls, N.Y., area, when he saw the plane nosedive. BU Today spoke with Gray about his experience.

BU Today: Can you describe what happened?
Gray: I saw the floatplane taking off. I was following in its wake, probably about 100 yards away. It probably got about 100 to 150 feet in the air and just nosedived, crashed, and flipped over right in front of me. The plane was upside down, but it had pontoons, so it was not sinking.

That’s when I pulled the Jet Ski around. My first reaction was, I’m going to need to get the door open and try to get whoever’s in there out of the plane to see if they’re okay. Then I saw a man pop his head up; he was bleeding pretty badly from his eye. I asked if he was okay and he said no. He was in shock. He was looking for somebody else and mumbling, “Are you all right? Are you okay down there?”

A woman appeared on the other side. She was bleeding profusely from her nose, and she was in shock. I knew I had to react right away and help this woman, so I took my life vest off and dove in the water after her. I had her put her arms through my vest and secured it around her until another boat came. By the time I was in the water and had helped secure the woman, other boats were coming out to assist. I was able to get her over to another boat with some assistance.

The plane was leaking gasoline; were you worried about that?
I was in the water aiding the woman, and after a couple minutes the gasoline started to really come out of the plane. We were all kind of nervous by then; we could feel the gasoline burning on our skin and could see it in the water. We were all thinking that we had better try to limit the activity as much as possible and get those boats out before something happened.

What was going through your head as this was happening?
When I was watching this thing take off and then crash right in front of me, it took me a second to realize what had happened. And then in the next second, it was just kind of a reaction. I thought, I’ve got to get over there and do the best that I can to help whoever is in there get out. There wasn’t really any kind of fear or “oh no”–type thing.

Do you have any experience with planes?
My father is a pilot, so I’ve spent a lot of time around planes with him.

Did that help you know what to do?
Kind of, because I recognized what kind of plane it was. When I first pulled up to the scene and analyzed it, I knew where I would have to go if I had to dive in and rip the door open and get the people out.

Have you heard from the people in the plane since the accident?
I haven’t heard directly from them, but I was able to follow up through a newspaper story that said they escaped with minor injuries, which was great. I’m very happy that I was able to help these people out. The best thing for me is to just know that they had only minor injuries.

Rebecca McNamara can be reached at ramc@bu.edu.