Pilot says plane crash into ocean near Half Moon Bay wasn't stunt

The man behind the controls of a plane that crashed in Half Moon Bay is giving us a play-by-play of how it happened and explained his decision to record his own rescue. The plane crashed five miles outside Half Moon Bay harbor. Emergency dispatch audio indicates the plane was easy for Coast Guard crews to spot. In the audio you hear someone say, "You're circling right over. The aircraft has sunk."

For David Lesh, this would be a day of taking inventory.

"This I was using as a flotation device along with some window shades," he said, holding a light jacket in his hands. It's one item that kept Lesh and a friend afloat five miles off Pillar Point on Tuesday, after what began as an air-to-air photoshoot of his new airplane became the story of an engine failure and ocean ditching.

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An air-to-air photo shoot over the California coast turned catastrophic for 34-year-old David Lesh and his friend Kayla.



Lesh says, "Once I accepted my fate that this plane was gone I could fly and control it all the way down to the water."

The pilot of that second plane, Owen Lepelt, says Lesh had maybe one minute from the engine failure to impact.


"David did a textbook water ditching," he said.

Having escaped, Lesh rolled video through his rescue ordeal. That fits the profile of a well-known professional skier and social media figure from Denver with a reputation for provocative productions and stunts while promoting his clothing company. After the crash, that has led to inevitable questions.

"Our videos are provocative and edgy but if you think I crashed my brand new airplane into the Pacific for a publicity stunt, you need your head examined," he said.

As soon as the engine failed, Lesh came up with his own theory.

"I think it's the fuel," he said in the video while floating in the water. He had filled up at Reid Hillview Airport and now says that fuel was not as clean as it should have been.


"The NTSB is looking into fuel at that airport now," he said.

We may never know exactly what happened. That video shows the plane disappearing into the depths, where it is likely to remain unrecoverable. What remains are questions for the social media star who made headlines in a way he never imagined.

Freedman: "Are you a different person, now?
Lesh: "No."
Freedman: "Are you going to buy another plane?"
Lesh: "As soon as I can."
Freedman: "Anything you want to say to the people who think you staged this?"
Lesh: "The more accurate way to look at is my lifetime of crazy things allowed me to remain calm in a very urgent situation which led me to live. If I couldn't handle extreme situations I would not be here to talk about it."
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