‘Wicked Tuna’ Boat Once Rescued a Pilot After His Plane Went Down

by Taylor Cunningham

The guys and gals of Wicked Tuna have had some interesting experiences while searching for Atlantic Bluefins out on the turbulent waters near Massachusetts. In one such experience, the crew of the Christina rescued a pilot after his plane crashed.

In 2012, Wicked Tuna’s Captain Kevin Leonowert made headlines as a hero. While he was out with his crew, a storm rolled in that caused a small aircraft to fall into the icy cold Atlantic ocean.

The pilot, Pat Bulger, had been flying near the Christina for about four hours while helping the team spot tuna. Leonowert said Bulger was a common spotter for his ship and would always be within a 5-10 mile radius.

After he decided to head back to shore, his aircraft started having troubles, and the pilot radioed the Coast Guard. Luckily, the Christina wasn’t too far away at the time. When the pilot radioed his SOS, a crewmate caught the signal and the plane’s general latitude.

The Crew of Wicked Tuna’s Christina Was Able to Save the Pilot With the Help of The US Coast Guard

“We were at the end of our day. The plane went down around 4:30 p.m. on Friday”, Leonowert remembered. “It was a stressful night.”

After hearing Bulger’s distress call, the Coast Guard launched a helicopter, a Falcon jet, and a lifeboat.

Wicked Tuna Crewmates Scott Prentiss and Greg Chorebanian were on board that night and ready to help. Chorebanian had recorded the coordinates, but the pilot spoke so fast in his panic that he couldn’t catch the exact numbers. So the crew ended up being off by a few miles.

“Until we knew the pilot was OK, there was a lot of stress on the boat,” Chorebanian said. “The boat owners, Kevin and Scott, and myself were really, really stressed out.”

But thanks to the pilot’s flight plan, EMS was able to track him down. “This is a classic case of why pilots file a flight plan in case something goes wrong,” said Lt. J.G. Mike Barker. “He logged a plan, and the vessel he was fishing with knew where to look so they could find him.”

Once the Coast Guard and the Massachusetts State and Environmental police spotted the pilot in a life raft, they were able to point the Christina in the right direction. The boat made it to the “calm and smiling” pilot and pulled him aboard.

“We gave him a big hug,” Chorebanian told reporters. “The relief on this boat— it was like a million pounds had been taken off our shoulders.”

And that wasn’t the last time a team from Wicked Tuna saved someone from the Atlantic Ocean. In 2014, Tyler McLaughlin was honored by the American Red Cross after he pulled someone from the water after their fishing vessel capsized.