Passenger who landed plane says ‘hand of God’ was with him

May 15, 2022, 10:09 PM | Updated: May 16, 2022, 10:54 am
In this still image from video by WPTV shows emergency personnel surrounding a Cessna plane at Palm...

In this still image from video by WPTV shows emergency personnel surrounding a Cessna plane at Palm Beach International Airport Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. A passenger with no flying experience was able to land the plane safely with help of air traffic controllers after the pilot was too sick to handle the controls. (WPTV via AP)

(WPTV via AP)

A Florida man with no flying experience who kept his cool while landing a small plane says “the hand of God” was with him after the pilot collapsed at the controls.

Darren Harrison told NBC’s “Today” show that he was relaxing with his feet up in the back of the single-engine Cessna after a fishing trip in the Bahamas when the pilot told him and another passenger: “Guys, I gotta tell you I don’t feel good.”

“He said, ‘I’ve got a headache and I’m fuzzy and I just don’t feel right,” the 39-year-old flooring salesman said. “And I said, ‘What do we need to do?’ and at that point he didn’t respond at all.”

Harrison climbed into the cockpit and saw that the plane was diving, and fast.

“All I saw when I came up to the front was water out the right window and I knew it was coming quick. At that point I knew if I didn’t react, that we would die.”

Harrison said he reached over the unconscious pilot and grabbed the controls, slowly pulling back the stick to level the plane. It was a common-sense move, he said.

“I knew if I went up and yanked that, the airplane would stall,” he said. “And I also knew that at the rate we were going, we were going way too fast, and it would probably rip the wings off of the airplane.”

That, he said, was “the scariest part of the whole story.”

With help from the other passenger — a friend of the pilot, he said — they moved him out of the pilot’s seat. Harrison jumped in and put on the headset, only to realize that the wires were frayed and the plug was gone. So he got the headset from the other passenger.

He reached an air traffic controller in Florida. Asked if he knew the plane’s position, Harrison said the GPS was out so he had no idea.

According to Flight Aware, the plane had taken off earlier Tuesday from Marsh Harbour International Airport in the Bahamas.

The air traffic controller then asked what he could see.

“I see the state of Florida and I see a small airport,” Harrison told him.

At this point, he refused to let fear set in.

“When I was flying and saw the state of Florida, at that second I knew I’m going to land there,” he said. “I don’t know what the outcome’s going to be, I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I knew I’m going to have to land this airplane because there’s no other option.”

Harrison said he had to get home to his wife Britney, seven months pregnant with their first child.

“People said what if you had crashed and died? You could have at least called her, you could have reached out to her, you had time,” Harrison said. “In my mind I knew I wasn’t going to die, and the thought never crossed my mind to call and tell my wife ‘bye.'”

Air Traffic Controller Robert Morgan, who coached Harrison into a safe landing at Palm Beach International Airport, told him the runway would appear bigger and bigger as he approached.

At around 200 feet, Harrison said Morgan told him he needed to slow down.

“At that point I told the other guy, hey take the throttle and dump it on the floor. Just dump it on the floor as far as it will go,” Harrison said.

The plane touched down safely.

“I said thank you for everything and I threw the headset on the dash and I said the biggest prayer I’ve ever said in my life,” Harrison recalled.

“That’s when all the emotion set in,” he added.

He said he offered up a “thankful prayer for the safety and everything that had happened. But the last part of the prayer and the strongest part was for the guy in the back because I knew it was not a good situation.”

The pilot was taken to a hospital and is expected to be released early this week, Harrison said.

Harrison then called his wife, who wasn’t expecting to hear from him so early. She said that last year, her sister was six months pregnant when her husband died, “so honestly I took a deep breath and prepared myself for it not to be him on the other line.”

“I told myself, “God we can’t do this again. I don’t think I could do it again. And thankfully we didn’t have to.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

South Korea says North Korea test-fired missile toward sea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s military says North Korea has fired at least one unidentified ballistic missile toward its eastern sea. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sunday did not immediately say what type of missile it was or how far it flew. The launch came a day after South Korean officials […]
16 hours ago
This photo provided by Buckingham Palace on Saturday Sept. 24, 2022 shows the ledger stone at the K...
Associated Press

Palace reveals ledger stone at queen’s final resting place

LONDON (AP) — Buckingham Palace released a photo Saturday giving the first public glimpse of the new ledger stone installed at the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth II. The image shows the hand-carved Belgian black marble slab with brass letter inlays set into the floor of King George VI Memorial Chapel, St. George’s Chapel, […]
16 hours ago
Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud addresses the 77th session of the...
Associated Press

Saudi Arabia’s triumphant week reclaims the West’s embrace

NEW YORK (AP) — Saudi Arabia appears to be leaving behind the stream of negative coverage that the killing of Jamal Khashoggi elicited since 2018. The kingdom is once again being enthusiastically welcomed back into polite and powerful society, and it is no longer as frowned upon to seek Saudi investments or accept their favor. […]
16 hours ago
A model of the house where a precision counterterrorism operation killed al-Qaida's leader Ayman al...
Associated Press

CIA unveils model of al-Qaida leader al-Zawahri’s hideout

McLEAN, Virginia (AP) — The CIA has revealed a model of Ayman al-Zawahri’s safe house, used to brief President Joe Biden about the al-Qaida leader’s whereabouts before the agency killed him in a drone strike in Afghanistan. Shortly after al-Zawahri’s death, White House officials released a photo showing Biden talking to CIA Director William Burns […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Opposition leads in 1st round of Czech Senate election

PRAGUE (AP) — The major opposition party in the Czech Republic appeared to be leading Saturday in the first round of elections for one-third of the seats in Parliament’s upper house, the Senate. With ballots from more than 95% of ballot stations counted, the centrist ANO movement led by former Prime Minister Andrej Babis had […]
16 hours ago
Arizona Secretary of State Latie Hobbs, left, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Kris Mayes, ...
Associated Press

GOP quiet as Arizona Democrats condemn abortion ruling

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Democrats vowed Saturday to fight for women’s rights after a court reinstated a law first enacted during the Civil War that bans abortion in nearly all circumstances, looking to capitalize on an issue they hope will have a major impact on the midterm elections. Republican candidates were silent a day after […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Passenger who landed plane says ‘hand of God’ was with him