Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert, often forgotten given that he serves as the backup to Tom Brady, is now gaining national recognition for his heroic efforts in helping rescue four people facing the prospect of drowning after a helicopter crash in Florida.
Gabbert said that the incident began on Thursday while he and his brothers were cruising around Hillsborough Bay near Tampa. Suddenly, the group heard a “faint noise” and quickly began to investigate.
“I just remember looking to the West and seeing it almost looked like a crew boat in the water that had broken up in about four pieces, and I vaguely remember seeing like two yellow life jackets, so I was like, ‘All right we gotta go check this out,'” Gabbert explained.
The NFL athlete and his brothers then spotted what appeared to be a “crew boat in the water that had broken up into four pieces” as well as two yellow life jackets.
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Turns out they stumbled upon a crash-landed helicopter that held three passengers — a mother and father in their 60s and their son, reports NPR.
“It looked like they were in duress. We raced over there,” said Gabbert.
“The youngest kid had just come up and said he was pinned in there and I asked if anyone else was trapped and then I called 911, tried to remain as calm as possible,” the athlete said at a Friday press conference.
Gabbert sprung into action. He told the passengers how to inflate their life jackets before quickly helping them onto his jet ski, per NPR. Meanwhile, his brothers took care of another one.
“It was pretty chilly yesterday in the water, so you didn’t want to have them in there for too long,” he added.
First responders arrived on the scene to rescue the fourth crash victim merely seconds later, according to Gabbert.
“I was in the right place, right time,” he said. “The credit really goes out to the Tampa PD, fire department, sheriff’s department, because they were there within five seconds. It was pretty remarkable.”
Tampa Police Interim Chief Lee Bercaw lauded Gabbert for his courage, calling him an “honorary member” of the police’s marine patrol.
Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles offered praise for the athlete as well, saying, “Anytime you can find a guy to drop everything and go help somebody else he doesn’t know without even thinking about it and take their life into their own hands and helping someone else save their lives, that says a lot about a guy, and Blaine did that.”