Pilot, Passenger Survive Open Ocean Ditching

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The pilot of a Beech Baron that successfully ditched in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday is praising the response of rescue personnel after he and his passenger spent more than three hours in the open ocean 28 miles south of the tip of Louisiana. Theodore Wright said if the crews hadn't persevered until just before dark to spot him and his passenger Raymond Fosdick bobbing in their life jackets they might have faced a different outcome. "I said we have about 25 more minutes of daylight. If they find us in 20 minutes, we're going home tonight. If not, we're staying the night our here," Wright told reporters in Houston.

The plane sunk to the bottom shortly after the rough ditching. The pair took off from Baytown, near Houston, about 1:15 p.m. headed for Sarasota, Fla., and about halfway through the flight Wright said there was fire in the cockpit. He said he cut the engines immediately and headed for the water. The aircraft bounced once but settled upright and neither man was injured. They had flotation devices and survival gear on board and managed to get it out before the aircraft sank. Wright said he used the aircraft for charity flights for children with cancer and is anxious to find a replacement.