Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pilot of crashed ultralight gets to thank his rescuer in person

ST. PETERSBURG — Gus Hertz ran away from the spotlight the first time authorities hailed him as a hero.

That was June 13, after he and a St. Petersburg fisherman rescued a man who drove off a bridge near the Pinellas Bayway.

A day later, he saved St. Petersburg pilot Rodney Tyoe and another person whose ultralight plane crashed into waters near the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Hertz had been in his boat fishing nearby.

Hertz, who's vacationing here from Virginia, slipped away quietly from both scenes before reporters and TV cameras arrived.

On Thursday morning, he could no longer avoid the attention.

St. Petersburg fire Chief Jim Large presented Hertz, a 37-year-old husband and father of four, with the "Heroic Citizen Award." Mayor Bill Foster also gave him the key to the city.

"Are you the hero?" a TV producer asked as Hertz and his family arrived for the ceremony at Fire Station 11.

"No," Hertz said with a grin. "I'm just the guy who helped."

• • •

Gina Zimmerlund still has nerve damage in her hands from the plane crash. It makes it difficult to touch other people.

But that didn't stop the 55-year-old from embracing Hertz when she and Tyoe saw him for the first time since last week's rescue.

A pack of reporters and TV cameramen recorded the meeting, which took place a few minutes before Thursday's award ceremony in the fire station parking lot.

Hertz's family, including his parents who flew down from Georgia, watched as well.

"Thank you so much," Zimmerlund whispered in Hertz's ear, her voice wavering.

"It was my pleasure," he murmured back. "I did what anybody else would do."

Tyoe, a 74-year-old former firefighter, gripped Hertz's hand and brought him into a bear hug.

"Boy, am I glad to see you," he told the younger man. "I'm glad you were there and handled it like you did."

Together, they recounted the rescue story for the cameras.

That afternoon, Tyoe and Zimmerlund, Tyoe's son's girlfriend, climbed to about 100 feet when the wind started pushing around their ultralight plane. They hit the water fast, flipping over.

Hertz, who happened to be fishing in the area, raced over and carried the two to shore in his boat. Authorities were shocked when they realized Hertz was the same rescuer from a day earlier.

News spread fast. The story ricocheted around the Internet. Soon, Good Morning America called.

"I've gotten way more attention than I ever wanted from this," Hertz said. "It's made me a better person."

On Thursday, media followed the two families around as they checked out the fire station, the same one dispatched to both crashes.

Fellow rescuer Kevin Daly, the fisherman who helped at the car crash scene, held the Hertzes' 8-month-old son. Daly got an award as well.

• • •

After it was all over, Hertz and Tyoe met in the middle of the fire station.

The TV cameras were gone. The mayor had left.

The two men finally had a moment to themselves.

They shook hands one last time, repeating the same line to one another:

"It was so nice to meet you."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

Gus Hertz, 37, talks with his son, Gabriel, 3, as the boy shows off his stuffed animal to Rodney Tyoe, the ultralight pilot Hertz rescued June 14, before the beginning of a news conference Thursday to honor Hertz at the St. Petersburg Fire Station 11.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Gus Hertz, 37, talks with his son, Gabriel, 3, as the boy shows off his stuffed animal to Rodney Tyoe, the ultralight pilot Hertz rescued June 14, before the beginning of a news conference Thursday to honor Hertz at the St. Petersburg Fire Station 11.

Pilot of crashed ultralight gets to thank his rescuer in person 06/21/12 [Last modified: Thursday, June 21, 2012 11:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Baker lowers expectations for primary

    Blogs

    Rick Baker officially lowered expectations Tuesday, saying his “battle for the future of the city” against Mayor Rick Kriseman might last until November.

    Rick Baker addresses supporters on Beach Drive Tuesday
  2. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Polk sheriff: Gibsonton man sent child porn to Bay News 9 anchor

    Crime

    A 20-year-old Gibsonton man was indicted on federal charges after authorities said he repeatedly sent child pornography to a news anchor for Bay News 9.

    Marchaun Browning, 20 of Gibsonton, was indicted on federal charges, accused of sending child pornography to a news anchor for Bay News 9 using Twitter. [Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  4. 5 things to do under $5: Type artists, shuffleboard, toy train show, Wildflower Walk

    Events

    1 Letterheads Typefest: The muralists who run Illsol Space, a gallery in Tampa Heights, said their respect for handmade fonts and sign painting techniques moved them to curate this exhibit featuring type-based muralists, hand-style lettering designers, sign painters, letterpress studios and type designers. …

    Colm O’Connor, a Dublin sign writer, is among the 22 artists featured in the Letterheads Typefest exhibit at the Illsol Space gallery.
  5. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]