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Wednesday
Jul272011

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

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HARBOR BEACH, Mich.) -- 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 Wednesday's rescue.

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.

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.

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.

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