Martha Raddatz, Kirit Radia, and Luis Martinez report:
While there have been detailed descriptions of the rescue of the pilot of the F-15E that crashed over Libya Monday night, the details of how the other airman on was rescued have remained murky to say the least.
The 27-year-old airman, who has not yet been identified, parachuted to safety after the plane experienced mechanical failures over eastern Libya. He hid near a farmhouse and locals eventually transported him to Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city and seat of the rebel movement.
Somehow he mysteriously made his way back to U.S. control many hours after the plane’s pilot had been recovered by a Marine search and rescue team. U.S. officials tell ABC News that the crewmember’s rescue was facilitated by an incredible stroke of luck. According to the officials, the weapons officer was rescued thanks to the help of a Libyan citizen who was once associated with the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
The Libyan, who had once received a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, used his or her knowledge of the State Department to phone its operations center and notify them about the missing airman’s whereabouts.
After that the U.S. military was made aware of the airman’s location, a U.S. official says it was the Italian Navy that actually picked him from Benghazi. According to the official, the airman was picked up in Benghazi and transported to an Italian warship offshore. It was from there that he was eventually turned over to U.S. control, ending the airman’s long, but lucky odyssey.