Pilot, Buoyed by Sense of Humor, Survives 17 Hours in Water

PHOTO: Pilot Michael Trapp rescued from Lake HuronPlayHuron County Sheriffs Office
WATCH Pilot Recovering After 17 Hours in Water

A New York pilot has miraculously been rescued after his small plane crashed in Lake Huron, leaving him to swim and drift in the water without a life jacket for over 17 hours.

Officials say Michael Trapp, 42, was buoyed by an unsinkable sense of humor.

"He never lost his sense of humor," said Sid Schock, the Harbor Beach police chief. "The first thing he said was, 'If a 13-year-old girl could swim across the English Channel, I can survive overnight.'"

Trapp, from Gouverneur, N.Y., was flying from New York to Chippewa Falls, Wis., when a fuel problem led him to report a mayday before he lost contact with the Federal Aviation Administration around 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

"He ended up stalling the airplane into the lake, with the engine not running. Upon impact, the airplane flipped over," said Huron County Chief Kelly Hanson in a statement. "He then escaped the airplane as it sank seconds later."

Trapp's plane crashed 17 miles from Michigan's shore, according to the Coast Guard, and he swam 15 miles before today's rescue.

Pilot Crashed into Lake Huron and Floated for 17 Hours

Police say Trapp was the only passenger aboard the two-seat Cessna. He was picked up by a fishing boat that spotted him in the water.

"He had his socks off, and he was waving the socks over his head," Dean Petitpren, whose wife Diane spotted Trapp, told ABC's Detroit affiliate WXYZ.

Petitpren said that, luckily for Trapp, the water was warm and calm. The water in that area is 45-feet deep.

"He was really on his last leg. It looked like he was going to drown he said. His eyes were starting to shut. So, it's definitely a miracle," Petitpren said.

"He was happy…and he was talking a lot. I asked him if he wanted some water at that point, and he said, 'No, I've had enough water," Petitren said.

Schock described Trapp as "pretty hypothermic" when he was picked up as well as struggling and shaking.

Trapp was swimming and drifting in the water without a life jacket from 5 p.m. Tuesday until about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday—17 and a half hours.

"The guy was spectacular. He would've had hours of cramps, but he made it through the night," Schock said. "At one point in time, he said he almost got run over by a freighter."

He was transported to Harbor Beach Hospital for tests before being transferred to Covenant Hospital in Saginaw. The Huron County Sheriff's Office said Trapp was in "good spirits" and aside from minor scratches, Schock believes that Trapp is in "pretty darn good shape."

Petitpren also said that Trapp told him he was planning on driving back to New York.

"I got to find out what he's doing and start doing it," Schock said. "He's pretty incredible."