AUSTIN IDOL LIVE: DETAILS OF THE AIRPLANE CRASH THAT ENDED A LIFE, AND CHANGED THE LIVES OF IDOL, HART, & COLT FOREVER
Austin Idol, also known as the “Universal Hearthrob” and Iron Mike McCord was an international Pro Wrestling Star who started his illustrious career in 1972. Idol survived a fatal plane crash in 1975 when the plane he was a passenger in went down in the middle of the waters of Tampa Bay. Austin made history when he defeated Jerry “The King” Lawler in a steel cage “Hair” match in Memphis,Tn April 27, 1987. Austin retired, or at least we think he retired, in 1993. Who really knows, look at Bret Favre? Visit Austin Idol’s website here: http://www.austinidollive.com
(In the last installment of “Austin Idol Live” Austin talked about the airplane ride that would change his life, with Pilot Buddy Colt, and wrestling friends Bobby Shane and Gary Hart. Here he describes the horror of that tragic flight) …
We were in the Sarasota vicinity when Buddy radioed the flight control tower and checked in with the controller about our soon to be landing. I will never forget what the voice from the control tower said, “Tampa International is closed due to low ceilings (Fog) but, Peter O’Knight off of Davis Islands is Open!!”
OK open, doesn’t this sound like it’s clear and safe to land at Peter O’Knight airport to you? There was a conversation between Buddy and the control tower and the talking points were, we could land there but, Buddy might need some assistance from the tower. Although Sarasota is behind us, we all talked about the situation. One option was to turn around and safely land in Sarasota where the weather was perfect, and we could rent a car and drive the rest of the way back to Tampa, some 50 odd miles. Option 2 was, continue on our path and put down at Peter O’Knight even if it required some guidance from the control tower.
Buddy, had a VFR rating which means he was licensed to fly as long as he had Visual flight conditions as opposed to being IFR, where a pilot can rely on his instruments to guide him even in adverse weather conditions. I was all for landing in Sarasota but, the general consensus was to push forward and land in Tampa.
I honestly can’t remember exactly how far out from Tampa we were when the weather became skewed with fog. The closer we came to our landing destination, the thicker the fog became. Now Buddy is being guided completely by the guy in the control tower and the tension in the cabin could have been cut with a butter knife! We all knew this was a dangerous situation and all of us were on “High Alert”! Now, we’re all looking for the runway beacon light that lets you know where the runway is. Please don’t confuse this with the actual runway lights that are on both sides of the landing strip.
These were not visible to us but, once we could get under the ceiling of the dense fog they would become visible for a safe landing. Buddy, and the rest of us are looking for that yellow flashing beacon that will signify we are close to the runway, and there’s dead silence in the cabin! Finally, we see it, and what a relief it was! The guy in the tower is directing Buddy all the way now, telling him to reduce is altitude by so and so etc.
The plane is in descent mode and we are getting closer to the runway but, by the time we were basically at the runway, we were still too high to land. Now, Buddy had to give the plane some throttle in order to increase air speed, and begin a bank turn over the residential part of Posh Davis Islands. We continued our sharp turn and now we are over the pitch black waters of Tampa Bay. Tension and anxiety are elevated beyond imagination, because we all knew we were in “Dire Straights”! This is when it happened! As we all are looking to find that elusive beacon, in the blink of an eye, I saw the unthinkable! It was the white capped waters of Tampa Bay! Here is exactly what went through my mind in this millisecond. “You’re dead, and didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to your loved ones!”
BANG! The plane slammed into the water and then everything went into slow motion as if I were dreaming but, this was as real as real can be. The next thing I knew, I was sinking underneath the water, still strapped in my safety belt. I was trying to release the harness and extricate myself but, it just wouldn’t let go. I was pulling with my feet which were hemmed in under the foot pedals since I was in the co-pilots seat up front but, they were stuck as the plane continued to submerge underneath the water. I thought this can’t be happening,
I have survived a plane crash and now I’m going to drown!
Then at the last second, I gave it all I had left to give, and pulled with my hands and feet as hard as I could. BANG again, but this time I was free from everything that was holding me in that death trap of a plane! I came to the surface of the water and all I could hear was the lapping of waves. I yelled out, “Is everyone OK”? Nothing, no voices, no nothing.
Again I yelled out, “Is everyone OK”? This time I heard the voices of Buddy and Gary saying, “We’re OK, where are you”? They were thrown God only knows how many yards away, while I was at the epicenter of the plane crash. I hollered out for Bobby, “Bobby, are you OK”? No response and I yelled again. Still nothing so I thought, Oh my God, maybe Bobby is still in the plane? I drew a huge breath and dove down into the cold wet blackness feeling for Bobby, the plane, or anything but, no luck so I surfaced to regain my breath. Once again, I dove under the water praying I would find Bobby, but no, not this time either. It was at this moment I knew that either Bobby was thrown so far away, much like Buddy and Gary, or something bad has happened to him. The water was freezing and Buddy and Gary needed my help.
As it turned out, we all needed each other’s help! We all must have swam 300 yards or so which is equivalent to 3 football fields before we reached shallow water. I tried to stand and when I did, unbearable shooting pains went through my entire body.
I knew I was injured but, didn’t know how badly. The three survivors made it to the boat dock of an affluent Physician and with Buddy and I on our knees, Gary stood on our shoulders and pulled himself up on to the dock. Gary made his way broken ribs, broken back, and bleeding profusely to the Doctors house.
In horror, the Dr. answered the door that Gary was pounding on as hard as he could! Gary told him what happened and to call the rescue squad. Meanwhile Buddy and I are in the water with shock and hypothermia rapidly setting in. We tried to lower a boat that was tied up in divots to the Doctors boat dock. We thought if we could get the boat into the water, we could crawl in and at least keep from freezing to death! I had no sense of time at this point as I slipped further into shock. Like Angels from the sky, helicopters were hovering above us and the rescue squad was on the scene.
The EMT’s lowered the boat, Buddy and I crawled in, we were loaded into an ambulance, and taken immediately to Tampa General Hospital. I was alive, barely it seemed, but, alive! The next day even though I was heavily sedated, I learned the tragic news. Bobby Shane was dead and never came out of his seat belt.
Life is by the second my friends, don’t miss a second! I’ll be right here next week with more stories of the life and times of “Austin Idol”! For booking information on Austin Idol please contact him here: http://www.austinidollive.com/your_event.htm If