Mayday! One Man’s Story of Surviving a Plane Crash

Could you survive a plane crash for 18 hours treading water without a life vest? Michael Trapp did. Here's how.

By Derek Burnett from Reader's Digest | February 2012

More boats passed, but Trapp bobbed there as invisible and insignificant as a chunk of wood. When the sun rose, its warmth was welcome, but it brought with it choppier waves. He was very cold now, and his depleted muscles were cramping severely. You don’t have a lot of choices, he said to himself. You either swim or die. Those are the only choices you get.

He decided to try to swim at an angle through the current and reach shore that way. He was paddling hard when a fishing boat came by, close, close, so close, it felt like he could touch it. Three guys were walking around on deck. He screamed and waved for all he was worth, until there was nothing left inside him and he had no choice but to roll over onto his back and recuperate. By the time he was rested, the current had dragged him 500 yards from the boat. “Goddamn it,” he cursed. He could no longer feel his hands, and there was a strange tingling in his arms. You’ve got to relax, he told himself again. But it was getting harder to do. He looked up and saw a sailboat approaching. He pulled a credit card out of his wallet and began reflecting the sun’s rays at the boat. He alternated between that and waving one of his socks. No luck.

Over the next couple of hours, two more sailboats came by, and he tried in vain to hail them. He could feel himself reaching his physical limit. He’d been in the water for nearly 18 hours now.

Another boat approached, between him and the open water. Cramped and crippled, Trapp paddled toward the vessel in an awkward sidestroke, then stopped and began waving the sock and flashing the credit card. The boat kept going. Please, please, please. Come on. I may not get another chance at this. Please!

Dean and Diane Petitpren and their guests were three hours into their vacation aboard their 58-foot Viking pleasure boat when Diane glanced toward shore and saw something floating in the water. She kept her eye on the spot as their hired captain, Erik Krueger, brought the vessel around.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

Sending Message
how we use your e-mail

Your Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus