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Pilot films own rescue after plane crashes off San Francisco coast

The dramatic video captured what happened after a pilot had to ditch his plane into the Pacific Ocean.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Propeller plane flying on the cloudy sky background

After having to ditch his plane off the coast of California, a pilot from Colorado was able to shoot dramatic video of his own rescue. 

The pilot, David Lesh of Denver, told NBC Bay Area he was in the middle of a mid-air photoshoot of his new plane when he lost power Tuesday night and had to put it down in the ocean several miles off Half Moon Bay. 

As Lesh and his passenger made it out of the aircraft safely, the second plane involved in the photo shoot contacted air traffic control, which then alerted the Coast Guard around 6 p.m. Tuesday. 

Lesh took out his waterproof phone and began documenting the entire encounter

The pilot of the second plane, Owen Leipelt, kept flying overhead and watched desperately as Lesh's plane sunk into the water. 

Leipelt told KGO that at one point he lost sight of them but then Lesh called him on the phone while "bobbing in the water" and guided him back to where he was. 

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Lesh even got video of the moment the Coast Guard arrived on the scene to rescue him and his passenger. 

In a press release, the Coast Guard credited Leipelt and his passenger with helping guide rescuers quickly to the scene. 

"The second pilot's quick response to report the downed plane and remain on scene greatly aided the Coast Guard's prompt response and ability to save two lives," said Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Murphy, the Air Station San Francisco Dolphin pilot.

After refusing medical treatment, the Coast Guard transported Lesh and his female passenger to Air Station San Francisco. 

Amid rumors and speculation online that the crash was a staged publicity stunt, Lesh told KPIX that it makes no sense because he just bought the plane. He blamed bad fuel for causing the malfunction. 

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating, but FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said they had not yet spoken to Lesh.