Fishermen talk about pulling Navy pilot out of water after jet crash

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SHELTER ISLAND -- “He was making passes for the past few hours,” said Tom Atkisson about the pilot in the Navy Jet Plane involved in a crash Friday afternoon.

He and his fishing buddies thought it would be just another day on San Diego Bay when they saw the Jet touch the runway on North Island.

“We didn’t know if he was landing or if he was taking off,” said Atikisson.

“It looked like it almost floated in the air, then dropped in the water,” said David Lazaro.

That was followed by what sounded like an explosion.

“A big boom, then you saw the ejector seat,” said Lazaro’s teenage son, Crow.

The men then saw the pilot Para-Shoot into the water.

“Worked really well, all the safety equipment,” said Lazaro.

The 4 fishermen crew didn’t think it twice and went to rescue the man.

“We picked him up, we both grabbed him pulled him into the back of the boat, took both of us to do it, he didn’t look very good,” said Atkisson, a Point Loma native.

“We just wanted to reassure him that he was fine and he was alive, you know and that’s the most important thing and we decided to get away from the jet, because the motor was still running and the water was boiling, we thought it [the plane] could explode,” he said.

Atkisson said the Pilot told him his name was Steve and when he asked what went wrong, “it was pilot error,” he recounted.

The pilot was treated and released.

“He did thank us,” said Atkisson.

“We didn’t come back with any fish but we came back with a story to tell,” said Lazaro.

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