Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert became a hero off the field on Thursday when he helped rescue the victims of a helicopter crash.
Gabbert was jet-skiing in Hillsborough Bay with brothers Brett and Tyler when he heard “a faint noise” nearby.
“It almost looked like a crew boat in the water that had broken up in about four pieces,” he said at a news conference, adding that there were also life jackets visible.
“We raced over there,” he said, and found it wasn’t a crew boat. It was the wreck of a chopper, which crashed into the bay with the pilot and three passengers on board.
Gabbert said he called 911 and pulled two of the victims to safety on his jet ski, while one of his brothers helped a third as first responders saved the pilot:
“Let me tell you, helicopters sink really fast,” passenger Hunter Hupp, who was flying with his parents, told Fox Sports. “We learned that rather quickly.”
He said he thinks his mother was one of the pair rescued by the quarterback.
“My mom said she was hoping to meet Tom Brady while we were down here,” he said, referring to the Bucs’ famous starting quarterback. “I think she came pretty darn close.”
ESPN said word got out fast, with Gabbert receiving a text message from Bucs general manager Jason Licht within about 45 minutes of the rescue.
“I honestly wanted to stay anonymous,” he told the network, saying credit for the rescue goes to the first responders. “I just thought I was doing the right thing at the right time. I’m not much of a guy to be in the limelight.”
Tampa Bay police Officer Dan Spears told CBS News that Gabbert and his brothers “had actually just about completed the rescue” when first responders arrived.
The department made Gabbert an honorary member of its marine unit.