Suburban woman helps land helicopter, survives crash after pilot passes out

WGN EXCLUSIVE

JOLIET, Ill. -- A southwest suburban woman who was on her first helicopter flight helped land the helicopter when the pilot blacked out—and helped saved the lives of her fiance and the pilot.

Adam Barnett and Carli McConaughy, a Joliet couple, were in Hawaii on vacation. The two got engaged Saturday, then on Monday, the last full day of their Hawaiian vacation, they were taking an incredible helicopter tour of the island of Oahu when their pilot suddenly stopped talking and slumped over.

“At first I thought he was playing a bad trick on us, and when I realized he wasn’t waking up, I didn’t know what to do,” McConaughy said.

With her fiancé screaming in the back to “pull up,” and the helicopter 1,000 feet above the ocean, McConaughy did just that. She grabbed the controls and slowed their free fall just enough to save their lives.

“It was one of the loudest things I can ever remember,” Barnett said.

Barnett said when the helicopter crashed, he looked over and McConaughy was about an inch from being underwater. The pilot was passed out on top of her. He swam out of the debris and lifted the wreckage off the sand bar as the water rose around them. They worked together to pull the pilot out as he slipped in and out of unconsciousness.

The pilot survived, but it is unclear what caused him to pass out.

“You start to think about the bigger picture a lot more after something like that happens to you,” Barnett said.

The two suffered bruises, cuts and broken bones, but they’re alive and said they were saved by luck and their own quick thinking.

McConaughy said she didn’t think she was going to survive the crash.

The couple is now home in Joliet and are surrounded by friends and family who are also counting their blessings. They are now looking forward to their wedding day.

The crash is under investigation.