Lady Bird Lake in Austin is a common destination for boaters, paddleboarders and all kinds of people trying to beat the Texas heat.
On Thursday, though, it was a plane that found its way into the lake.
At about 2 p.m., a game warden with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department flying a 2009 Cessna T206 started to experience mechanical issues with his plane. The pilot, Lt. Dwayne Havis, was the only one on board when the plane went into the lake.
Thankfully, that section of the lake was mostly clear, allowing the pilot to put the plane down in the water and avoid the nearby Interstate 35.
“I was like, ‘Wait a minute — that plane is really, really low, and it is about to hit the bridge,” local Kurt Thomas, who watched the accident unfold from his balcony, told KXAN-TV.
“It went up, barely hit the bridge, and then on the other side of the bridge it plummeted into the water.”
“There were kids riding their bikes right past me saying, ‘Wow that was so close’ … there’s a chance this plane dove into the water, and that’s when I tried to get there as fast as possible,” said Steven Carbon, who had been running around the lake.
Nicholas Compton, who was at the lake, first thought the sound of the impact was from an accident that must have taken place on I-35, but he learned otherwise when a paddleboarder started yelling that a plane had hit the water.
Compton immediately took a lifejacket out to the wreck, certain he’d find a grisly scene.
“I was expecting to see something much worse than a man still alive floating, so I was very relieved to see that he was still conscious and everything, so it wasn’t much thinking except just getting him to the shore to medical services,” Compton told KXAN.
Compton said the pilot was out of breath and appeared to be in shock — but he was alive, and within five minutes Compton had gotten him to shore and into the care of medical services.
“He was very out of it,” Compton continued. “Not much dialogue happened.”
The pilot survived, but officials said he was taken to the hospital with potentially serious injuries.
An investigation is being held to determine the cause of the mechanical issues.
According to a spokesperson for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, the plane “had just come out of routine maintenance and the pilot was on a test flight when they reported mechanical issues” that forced him to land the plane in the lake.
The plane was removed from the water on Thursday night.