MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Marion County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Rawls went from fighting fires to fighting alligators. For the first time we're hearing his 911 calls for help after he crashed his chopper in Blackwater Lake.
“I had to get away from the water hole because there were two gators in the lake!” Rawls told dispatchers in the call.
Somehow Rawls’ cell phone still worked in the water. He managed to drag himself to the bank and told the dispatcher he's in horrible pain. “Ah, god, my back hurts,” Rawls said.
Rawls' helicopter was hauling buckets of water to a nearby brushfire when it went down. The NTSB says the cable may have gotten tangled in part of the chopper's tail. Rawls told the dispatcher it was going to be tough to find him.
“The aircraft is in the water,” Rawls said, “it's probably submerged by now, so you're not gonna see it.”
Rawls didn’t lose his sense of humor, joking about being eye-to-eye with a gator. “There were gators in the lake, they kept coming up to say hi,” he said.
“This isn't exactly how I planned my duty day to go!” Rawls later told the dispatcher.