Bucs QB Blaine Gabbert helped in rescue of helicopter passengers, saving 4

Hunter Hupp, who was floating in open water Thursday night after the helicopter he and his parents were traveling in crash-landed in the waters near the Davis Islands, didn’t know who the three men were who approached him on two jet skis. water.

Hupp, 28, had spent the previous hour flying back to the beach as a Christmas present, but he and other passengers on the helicopter heard a loud noise from the rotor above and had to land 200 meters away in the water. coast.

“Let me tell you, helicopters sink really fast,” said Hupp, who was grateful to wake up to another morning with her parents on Friday morning. “We learned that pretty quickly.”

Hupp’s parents, Wes and Lisa, managed to get out as the pilot took the helicopter into the water, but Hupp was the last to get out and was unable to free himself for about a minute before disembarking and surfacing. The four of them float together, within inches of the helicopter visible above the water, and as they decide whether to wait for help or try to swim to land while fully clothed, they almost immediately see two men on jet skis approaching.

One of them was Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Blaine Gabbert, who lives on Davis Island and joined the rescue along with his two brothers, Tyler and Brett. Hupp said the two had their father on one jet ski and their mother on the other, coordinating how to bring more people than the jet skis could carry.

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“They slowly took us back to shore, to a sandy beach near the yacht club, and we stuck around for a while, which was great,” Hupp said. “When we got to level ground, we had a friendly exchange. It was really good that they were helping us because we were the only ones there for a while. It was handshakes and hugs and ‘Thank you very much.’ met a family with a helicopter.”

Photo credit: Hunter Hupp

Tampa police arrived by boat within five minutes, Huff said, but the presence of two jet skis prevented them from spending too much time in the water, and it’s unclear how long they would stay in the water.

“We think everything about what’s going to happen,” said Hupp, who lives in Philadelphia and works in sales. “What happened wasn’t great, but we handled it very well.”

Gabbert, 33, is in his 12th NFL season and his fourth with the Bucks, but hasn’t played once this season as Tom Brady’s top backup. The Bucs have been busy preparing for Sunday’s game against Carolina, a win that would give Tampa Bay a second straight division title, but that wasn’t all Gabbert did Thursday.

Veteran KB spoke at a press conference with local law enforcement officials after training Friday, who called him a “civic hero,” but said he and his brothers were out for a walk on a warm December afternoon and were lucky. the right place to help someone.

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“It was just a really bad situation that ended up being good,” Gabbert said. “I was in the right place at the right time… Within five seconds, the Tampa police department, the fire department, the sheriff’s department were all there. It was amazing. It wasn’t me, it was just me and my brother. having fun.”

Gabbert was presented with a ceremonial “unit coin” by the Tampa Police Department’s Marine Corps and the department’s “honorary member” trophy from Interim Police Chief Lee Berkaw. His older brother, Tyler, played football at Missouri and Central Florida from 2010-13, while his older brother, Brett, has been a starter for Miami (Ohio) since 2019.

Hupp said he didn’t expect one of his saviors to be an NFL quarterback because they didn’t trade different names, but said of Gabbert, “I think that’s who my mom was clinging to.”

“My mom said she hopes to meet Tom Brady while we’re here,” he said. “I think he came pretty close.”

A helicopter approaching Peter O. Knight Airport on the southern tip of Davis Islands in Hillsboro Bay, the northeast tip of Tampa Bay, was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after 5:00 p.m. Thursday, Tampa police said. Local agencies were working to recover the sunken helicopter from the water on Friday morning.

Gabbert did not identify himself and said he was content to remain anonymous until his identity was made public. He and his brothers attended a Tampa Bay Lightning game Thursday night, and within an hour of the rescue, he asked Bucs general manager Jason Licht, “How many people did you just save from a helicopter crash?” received a message.

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Gabbert is located on the Davis Islands, where several Tampa Bay professional athletes, including Brady, have called home. He says he’s spent a lot of time on the water throughout his adult life, and he knows that you have to be responsible when you do it, and that you can’t always control what’s going on out there.

“Water and Mother Nature, she is invincible,” he said. “If you don’t treat the ocean with the utmost respect, whether it’s in the air or on a boat, it’s going to come back to bite you. You always have to be responsible and hyper-aware and know what’s going on. … I’m glad they all survived. I was just trying to do the right thing and help them.”

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Greg Auman is the NFC South reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th full-time season with the Bucks and the NFL, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter @gregauman.

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