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Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert helps rescue a family from a helicopter crash

Blaine Gabbert of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up prior to their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Grant Halverson
Getty Images
Blaine Gabbert of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up prior to their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert, often in the background as Tom Brady's backup, is now gaining national attention for helping rescue four people in the water after a helicopter crash in Florida.

Gabbert was jet skiing with his two brothers in Hillsborough Bay, Fla., when he heard a "faint noise" to the west, he said at a press conference Friday. He and his brothers turned around and saw what looked like a "crew boat in the water that had broken up into four pieces" and two yellow life jackets.

It was actually a crash-landed helicopter. And it had been carrying a pilot and three passengers — a mother and father in their 60s and their son who is around Gabbert's age, he said. The pilot had conducted an emergency landing into the water near the Davis Islands Yacht Club after the helicopter lost power, according to the Tampa Police Department.

"It looked like they were in duress. We raced over there," Gabbert said.

The 33-year-old instructed the passengers how to inflate the life jackets based on his own experience on the water and got them on his jet ski as quickly as possible. He was able to get two of the passengers on his jet ski, while his brothers took care of another.

"It was pretty chilly yesterday in the water, so you didn't want to have them in there for too long," Gabbert added.

The pilot was still in water when first responders arrived seconds later, he said.

"I was in the right place, right time," he said. "The credit really goes out to the Tampa PD, fire department, sheriff's department, because they were there within five seconds. It was pretty remarkable."

Gabbert said the passengers were covered in oil and visibly shaken up, but he was thankful he was able to get the passengers to safety.

Tampa Police Interim Chief Lee Bercaw said he was giving Gabbert a special honor.

"All the work you did out there, there's no reason why we don't make you an honorary member of our marine patrol," he said at the press conference.

Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles showered Gabbert with compliments for his heroic actions: "Anytime you can find a guy to drop everything and go help somebody else he doesn't know without even thinking about it and take their life into their own hands and helping someone else save their lives, that says a lot about a guy, and Blaine did that."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Ahn
Ashley Ahn is an intern for the Digital News and Graphics desks. She previously covered the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for CNN's health and medical unit and the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers for CNN's Atlanta News Bureau. She also wrote pieces for USA TODAY and served as the Executive Editor of her college's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Ahn is pursuing a master's degree in computer science at Columbia University.