An Alaskan floatplane pilot narrowly avoided a potentially tragic collision after a boater came dangerously close to his plane during takeoff.
According to KTUU-TV, Eric Lee was attempting to take off from Halibut Cove when a boat began coming towards his floatplane.
“The aluminum boat was coming toward me, I thought they were trying to get around me at first,” Lee said.
“Then they started weaving back and forth fairly close to the aircraft.”
Lee said he had seven passengers on board, and he became increasingly concerned as the boat came extremely close to his floatplane.
Footage shared on Reddit showed the boat repeatedly circling the floatplane as it was taxying on the water. At one point, it came within feet of the aircraft.
“My concern level was high because she was — it appeared to be within inches — but more than likely within feet of our wings,” Lee told KTUU.
“Had she, at those speeds, hit our wings, I just assumed it was going to be a catastrophe, and we would have to evacuate.”
Even greater than his concern for his own safety, Lee said he was worried about the safety of his seven passengers.
“If the boat did actually hit me, how was I going to get them to get out of the aircraft and to safety,” Lee said.
“Because the tide runs through there pretty fast and sometimes creates a pretty strong current, and it’s fairly cold water and, of course, the sides of the bay are fairly rocky too, so it would have been a tough maneuver if I had to do that.”
Eventually, a second boat arrived and convinced the woman who was circling the plane to stop, Lee said. He was able to successfully take off for his planned flightseeing trip.
In a statement shared on Facebook, the United States Coast Guard said it was investigating the incident.
“Our top priorities include protecting the safety of life at sea and ensuring responsible navigation on Alaskan waters,” the statement said. “We take all reports of unsafe navigation extremely seriously and the Coast Guard Investigative Service is currently investigating the incident.”
Alaska State Troopers have also launched an investigation, and Lee told KTUU he is glad the close encounter is being scrutinized by authorities.
“I mean there’s a whole mess of things she could have done differently to address the situation if she had issues with me or just general operations in the cove,” Lee said.
“I know that other people have reached out trying to figure out the best solution to all get along in the small environment, and so I think it should be investigated to figure out how to avoid this in the future, 100 percent.”
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