In two days, Gus Hertz did what most people will never do in a lifetime. Hertz saved three lives in two separate crashes.
On Thursday, Hertz saved the life of a man and woman after their ultralight plane crashed into the water in St. Petersburg. On Wednesday, he helped save a driver who had driven off a bridge and the vehicle was submerged off the Pinellas Bayway.
Hertz, who was vacationing in St. Petersburg from Roanoke, Va., called his heroic efforts "dumb luck."
He said he was more concerned with the people’s safety than taking credit for his achievements.
Lt. Joel Granata, a St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue spokesman, called Hertz’s act amazing. The fire department plans to honor Hertz with a "Citizen’s Heroic Award" in November.
"Two days, two heroic saves," Granata said. "That’s unbelievable."
On Thursday morning, Hertz was on his boat when he noticed an ultralight plane having problems. The ultralight took off about noon from a strip of beach in Tierra Verde and reached an altitude of 100 feet when it began having trouble.
Hertz noticed the plane was trying to land down wind. He then noticed a splash. The ultralight plummeted tail first into the water in an area known as Indian Key.
Hertz motored to the scene and found 74-year-old Rodney Tyoe and his passenger, Gina Zimmerman, 55.
Tyoe, who was bleeding from his mouth, was holding the woman out of the water, Hertz said. Zimmerman had a cut on her leg and complained of back pain, Hertz said.
Hertz called 911. He then called Eckerd College, a school he attended and knew had a boat on campus that was used for rescues, Hertz said.
Zimmerman was taken to O’Neill’s Marina in south St. Petersburg and transferred to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Tyoe was taken to shore. He refused medical treatment at the scene.
"We’re in good shape," said Tyoe, who lost a tooth in the crash. "We just hit the water a little bit hard is all that happened."
Hertz also was one of two men who pulled a driver to safety from his submerged BMW Wednesday morning after it went off the Pinellas Bayway in St. Petersburg. Hertz saw the crash from his condominium.
Tyoe’s daughter called Hertz "a guardian angel."
"Bless his heart. He seems to be in the right place at the right time," said Tyoe’s daughter, Juanita Baker. "Tell him: ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’"