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Heroes Honored for Saving Car, Plane Crash Survivors

Gus Hertz was at the right place at the right time, rescuing the driver from a submerged car one day and two plane crash survivors the next.

Some see it as a higher power working miracles through Gus Hertz, who pulled a car crash victim from a submerged car one day and rescued two plane crash victims from the bay the next.

Hertz sees it as plain luck.

Hertz, who is visiting from Roanoke, Va., says he was in the right place at the right time, twice, calling himself a "lucky guy" for being nearby when a driver veered into the bay and a plane crashed into the water near the Skyway Bridge. Hertz rescued three people in two separate crashes, just one day apart.

"I feel overwhelmed and amazed," Gus Hertz said after receiving the Heroic Citizen Award and key to the City from St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Chief James Large with St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue.

On Thursday, friends, family and members of St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue said thanks to Hertz for his two water rescues and to St. Petersburg resident Kevin Daly, who also rushed to the scene of the car crash.

Mayor Bill Foster said the two men went above and beyond without hesitation. They "put self secondary to a real human need."

Hertz and Daly were both honored for rescuing a driver out of the bay on Wednesday, June 13. Daly was fishing near Isla Kay Bridge off 54th Ave S. when he saw a BMW veer off the road, over the seawall and into Boca Ciega Bay. Daly jumped into the water to help. Hertz saw the accident from his condo and also rushed to the scene.

Hertz says the driver was knocked unconsious and for fear of further injuring the person, he and Daly were able to wait until the man woke up before pulling him out of the water.

"It was high tide and the car was sinking, but it was sinking very, very slowly," Hertz said.

The driver was treated on scene and taken to a nearby hospital.

Just 24 hours later, Hertz was fishing in a boat near the Skyway Bridge when an ultralight plane flew right over his boat. But, the view seemed suspicious, Hertz knew something was wrong and started heading towards the plane before it even hit the water.

"I knew they were in trouble," Hertz said.

He witnessed the plane flip forward, tail over nose into the water. Once on the scene, he helped 74-year-old Pilot Rodney Tyoe pull his 55-year-old passenger Gina Zimmerman on to the boat. She had lost all feeling in her arms and legs and couldn't move.

Tyoe said Hertz took control of the situation and remained calm. Hertz owes his actions partially to his upbringing. He said his dad taught him, "don't think about the big picture, just one thing at a time," he said.

All three were reunited during the Heroic Citizen Award Ceremony on Thursday at St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue Station #11. Gina Zimmerman said she's feeling better and better each day and believes she'll make a full recovery. She says she lost feeling during the crash because of whiplash and pinched nerves.

Hertz also received the key to the city from Mayor Bill Foster. Foster said he only brought one key to the city but will treat Kevin Daly to lunch at his favorite burger joint in town and bring him a key as well.

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