Rulon Gardner survives plan crash » MMA General » General MMA Talk » Rulon Gardner survives plan crash
2/27/07 8:53:14AM

by: Buddy Blankenfeld

Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner was in a plane that crashed into Lake Powell on Saturday. He has had his brushes with death before; a motorcycle crash in 2004 and surviving a night in Wyoming's back country during a snowmobile outing. He lost a toe to frost bite in that ordeal but it pales in comparison to his latest story of survival.

Gardner, his pilot friend Randy Brooks and Randy's brother, Les were returning from a day at Lake Powell on Brooks' house boat. They were making a return flight in Randy Brooks' Cirrus SR22 single engine plane over the lake. Gardner said they decided to fly low over the water. Brooks banked the plane to the left. "His brother [Les] said, 'watch the wheels,' and right as he said that we caught the first wheel… the left rear landing gear, and it skipped us and we skipped one more time," said Gardner, "that's when we made the direct impact with the water."

The plane hit the water at 150 miles per hour. Gardner hit his head on the window on impact. The three men quickly got out of their safety belts and abandoned the sinking craft. Gardner said he tried to grab his coat but did not have time. The men jumped in the frigid water. It was just past 2:30 in the afternoon. Gardner said he was disoriented from the bump on his head and he sank quickly at first because of the muscle on his massive frame. He began to panic, he said, but his two friends told him to get on his back and paddle and that calmed him down. The trio was able to get their bearings and head out for the nearest shore which was at least a mile and a half away. Gardner said he focused and made one stroke at a time even though, he could not feel his hands. His goal was to get to the beach before nightfall.

After nearly two hours in 44-degree water Gardner and his friends made it to shore. Exhausted, he tried to stand but was so numb nothing worked. When he was able to regain his motor function he started looking for his friends who had barely made it to land several hundred yards away. "I found them," said Gardner, "They were already in severe levels of hypothermia. Their bodies were shut down; no motor skills. They could not make rational decisions." He said they looked at him as if he were a ghost. They had thought he had drowned. It was now Gardner's turn to help his friends. That muscle and mass that almost pulled him under had helped insulate his body from the effects of hypothermia. He was able to think clearly and knew from his previous ordeal in frigid temperatures that the key was to stay focused. Gardner used his body temperature to get his friend's core temperatures up.

When they became lucid they worked on drying what little clothing they had on before the sun went down. Gardner had shed his shoes during the swim to shore and one of the Brooks brothers took off his shirt. Gardner had a skimpy cotton T-shirt that he tucked his arms into and the Brook's tore open a long sleeve T-shirt and wore it together. They also built a makeshift wind wall. The men huddled. The brothers took turns laying on each other for warmth but because of Gardner's size he was only able to rotate his front and back away from the wind. The men kept this up all night. They took turns sleeping a few minutes at a time and continued to check on each other to make sure no one got in trouble. Gardner said they also prayed; together at first and then many silent prayers that they would survive; that they would be found soon.

At 8:30 in the morning the huddled shivering men noticed a few boats on the lake but they were too far away to take notice. It was a bass fishing tournament. "There were only ten boats in the whole tournament," recalled Gardner. Only three boats came close enough to see and only one boat came near enough for the fishermen on board to take notice of Gardner and his friends. After 18 hours of enduring a plane crash, frigid water, hypothermia, and an overnight temperature of 27 degrees they were finally rescued. Gardner calls it "a miracle and a blessing" they were spotted.

The boat that picked them up was leading the tournament but the fisherman said he was prompted to come into the area. "He said, 'Rulon, we would've never turned over here but for some reason we felt we should come over and fish in this area. It didn't make sense why we came over here,'" Gardner recalled.

The three men were taken back to Bullfrog Marina where park ranger EMT's checked them for injuries. From there, pilot Randy Brooks' son-in-law flew them to the hospital in American Fork, where they were treated for severe hypothermia.

Gardner said his family has joked with him that he used up several of his nine lives from his previous near-death experiences. He said this time he has used up at least two and possibly three more of those lives. He said it has occurred to him that maybe he has been preserved for a reason. "There may be a higher plan out there for me ... and you're always wondering what difference am I supposed to make," said Gardner.
2/27/07 10:09:48AM
Rulon is a true warrior. I remember watching him wrestle in the Olympics and there is just something about him that makes you like him. How he has cheated death soooo many times is unbelieveable. If I get half as many second chances at life as him I will be happy.
2/27/07 3:50:35PM
I think Rulon Gardner might just be a superhero, he can't be killed. All jokes aside though I'm glad he's alright, hes an inspiration and an olympic hero.
2/27/07 5:22:52PM
he survived another plane crash
2/27/07 5:25:48PM
Wow I never knew about his other brushes with death this is one lucky man.
2/27/07 6:40:40PM

Posted by richieb19

I think Rulon Gardner might just be a superhero, he can't be killed. All jokes aside though I'm glad he's alright, hes an inspiration and an olympic hero.

Amen to that brother. Rulon's definately a hero in my eyes
2/28/07 5:43:02PM
Beware, Rulon... Fedor > plane crash

All joking aside, I caught a headline in some paper/magazine just yesterday, but was in a hurry so I didn't get to read it...

It's good to know that he's alright...
3/1/07 10:30:47AM
Everyone has something to learn from Rulon. The dude really is a superhero. That guy has lived one hell of a life...he should write a book.
3/1/07 1:10:55PM
Nice to hear that everybody survived and are okay. Must have been a terrifying experience for them all.
3/1/07 1:19:24PM
not to get off topic, but i just realized that the title says 'plan crash' instead of 'plane crash'.. haha.. oops
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