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Federal agents rescue pilot found standing atop sinking plane off Florida coast

<i>US Customs and Border Protection</i><br/>CPB said a
US Customs and Border Protection
CPB said a "possible human tragedy" was avoided when the pilot was rescued.

By Susannah Cullinane, CNN

Federal agents conducting a marine operation in Florida unexpectedly found themselves involved in an air rescue, when they spotted a pilot climbing out of his sinking aircraft.

The plane went in the water off Cedar Key, about a hundred miles north of Tampa along Florida’s Gulf Coast Tuesday.

Photos provided by US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) in a Friday news release showed a small propeller-powered plane, sinking about a half mile from the George T. Lewis Airport in Cedar Key, with water almost entirely covering its cockpit and a man standing on top.

“As agents and deputies approached the sinking plane, an individual was spotted climbing out and standing on the fuselage. Agents verified the pilot was the only occupant and were able to assist him on board an AMO (Air and Marine Operations) Coastal Interceptor Vessel,” according to the release.

Agents gave the pilot a preliminary medical assessment before emergency medical services arrived at the scene, CPB added.

CPB’s Tampa Marine Unit and the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Impact Unit were conducting joint operations off the coast of Cedar Key.

“The situational awareness and quick actions of the Marine Interdiction Agents and Sheriff’s Deputies prevented a possible human tragedy,” said Michael Matthies, Deputy Director of Marine Operations. “We are thankful we have the proper resources and trained personnel to perform when incidents like this present themselves.”

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