A husky construction worker dragged his 350-pound father and the unconscious and seriously injured pilot out of a Catalina Airlines amphibian Monday evening after it plunged upside down into the ocean off Santa Catalina Island.
But Larry Gilman, 27, was unable to reach the third passenger, who went down with the twin-engine Grumman Goose in 250 feet of water 200 feet off Pebbly Beach, a mile east of Avalon.
Gilman and his father, O.T. Gilman, 52, administered first aid to the pilot, Vern McGee, 54, on a wing of the amphibian, which broke nearly in half on impact, until all three were rescued by a passing motor yacht just before the plane sank.
The plane crashed at 5:20 p.m. as it was taking off for a flight to San Pedro. It was the second fatal crash of the carrier's Grumman Goose planes in five months.
The survivors were taken by the 22 foot motor yacht Avalon, then transferred to Avalon Community Hospital. McGee was given emergency treatment there before being flown by Coast Guard helicopter to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.
McGee, who lives in Lakewood, suffered head injuries, cuts and possible chest injuries.
The Gilmans both refused physical examinations to determine if they have been injured.
However, later Monday night, a deputy sheriff located both father and son at an Avalon bar and took them to the Avalon hospital for checkups. Both appeared to be in good condition.
Details of the crash were furnished by deputy sheriffs, Posh Gardiner, traffic controller for the Avalon Harbor Patrol, and Mrs. Sandy Felix, sister of Larry Gilman, who had talked to her father and brother before they were taken to the hospital.
"Larry dragged dad out of the plane onto the wing, then went back for the pilot, who was unconscious and badly cut up. Dad and Larry held the pilot on the wing and did what they could for him until they were rescued."
Gardiner said that by the time the Harbor Patrol boat Baywatch had arrived on the scene, all the survivors were aboard the private motor yacht and that the Gilmans were still aiding the pilot.
Divers went down to the wreckage but could not find the third passenger, a 33 year old man whose identity was not made public, Gardiner said.
Mrs. Felix said that her father and brother had told her that they boarded the plane after the other passenger had gone aboard and did not know just where he was seated in the amphibian.
She added that her father also is employed as a construction worker and that he and his son also manage the Bay View Hotel in Avalon.
Authorities said the cause of the crash could not be determined immediately. The FAA and other agencies will conduct an investigation.
Several eyewitnesses told deputy sheriffs that the plane appeared to have lost power on take-off.
Last April, another Catalina Airlines Grumman Goose crashed while attempting to land in Avalon Harbor. An 81-year-old woman passenger was killed and eight other passengers and the pilot were injured.
The plane sank in 100 feet of water, taking the elderly woman down with it.
In June, 1977, the FAA forced the carrier to suspend its amphibian flights on the grounds that three of the planes had been found to be "unairworthy."
The suspension was lifted after the planes, reported to have been damaged by saltwater corrosion, were repaired. During the suspension, the carrier continued service between the island and the mainland with large Sikorsky helicopters.