Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert was one of the first responders when a Philadelphia family of three and their pilot were left floating near Davis Islands after a Thursday Tampa helicopter tour ended in an emergency landing, the Tampa Bay police department confirmed on Friday.
All four of them survived with no injuries.
The tour was meant to fly over the beaches and return to Davis Islands airport. It was a Christmas gift for the family, who had all never been in a helicopter, 28-year-old Hunter Hupp said via the Tampa Bay Times.
Around 5 p.m., the aircraft’s engine failed according to Tampa police. The passengers reportedly heard a “loud noise” and the pilot was forced to make an emergency water landing about 200-yards from shore.
Hupp said his 62-year-old father, 59-year-old mother and the pilot, a 33-year-old man, were the first to make it out of the quickly sinking helicopter. Meanwhile, he remained stuck under seatbelts and cords, but made it to the surface after what he recalled to be about a minute of struggle.
As the passengers treaded water to float, men on jet skis quickly approached.
“They went out for a nice afternoon ride and just happened to come upon a stranded helicopter family,” Hupp said via Fox Sports.
One of them was Gabbert, who went unrecognized by the family. The other two were his brothers, Tyler and Brett, according to Fox Sports' Greg Auman.
"They slowly brought us back to the shore, a sandy beach near the yacht club, and hung out for a while, were really nice," Hupp said. "We exchanged pleasantries upon reaching flat ground. They were really an asset to helping us out, because we were the only ones out there for a while.”
Tampa Police reportedly arrived five minutes later.
Gabbert and the passengers reportedly only exchanged first names, but Hupp gave a description and recalled that his mom was “clinging to” the backup quarterback.
"My mom said she was hoping to meet Tom Brady while we were down here," he said. "I think she came pretty darn close."
Gabbert, a 33-year-old NFL veteran, is in his fourth season with the Bucs, his 12th overall. As Brady’s top backup, Gabbert was identified as a potential successor in Brady's retirement by general manager Jason Licht.
He has not played this season, but was seen at practice on Friday.
He now has an interesting story to tell his teammates, as they aim to clinch the NFC South on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
“I just thought I was doing the right thing at the right time,” Gabbert told reporters.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s attended the team's media availability on Friday and Major David Arthur commended Gabbert as a "citizen hero."