What would you do if a single-engine plane looked like it had lost control and was heading straight for your cruiser? Take evasive action? Jump overboard? Several boaters did both near South Padre Island, Texas—after which the pilot pulled up at the last minute and flew away.
Rodolfo Gonzalez-Gonzalez, a 20-year-old novice pilot, was arrested in September for allegedly buzzing three boats in southern Texas. Police say the Mexico City man flew his small plane very low near Port Mansfield, as if he were going to crash into the boats, and then pulled up before hitting them.
Many of the 13 boaters on the three boats jumped into the water to avoid the apparent collision. When they realized it was just a dangerous stunt, they called the sheriff.
“When we learned he was going to land at the Cameron County Airport at Bayview, we called the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office, and they arrested him,” Sheriff Larry Spence said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Gonzalez-Gonzalez, who had only recently earned his pilot’s license, reportedly rented the plane to practice takeoffs and landings. “He was supposedly taking flying lessons at the Weslaco airport where he got the plane,” Spence said.
Although the culprit told authorities he was flying with another person, there was no instructor with him when he was arrested at the airport. “It gets weirder as it goes along,” Spence said. Several frightened boaters told police they saw two people in the cockpit, while others said he was alone.
Recklessly buzzing boats is no petty crime. Police charged the pilot with 13 counts of aggravated assault and held him on $650,000 bond. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison. At presstime, federal authorities are considering charges as well.