Mechanic pulls man from Mackey muck

Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010

Robert Booth thought he saw three feet of clear water, but he needed Jim Hardin to pull him from "endless" depths of Mackey Lake muck this past Wednesday.

Booth, an aeronautical engineer, said that he hadn't flown a plane on floats in three years and had asked his friend Alvin Pierce to ready his plane for water landings.

Booth planned on storing the boat at Pierce's house until he'd become more comfortable riding again. Pierce was away and asked Hardin, who owns an aircraft shop on the lake, if he'd do the job for him.

"I did it as a favor," Hardin said.

According to Hardin, Booth, 84, seemed unsure of himself so he offered to bring the plane to Pierce's with him. Booth readily accepted, but the throttle on his plane was higher than normal and the engineer sped across the lake without Hardin.

The elderly engineer got out of his plane and got ready to tie the plane to a tree on Pierce's land. He said that he pushed the plane's nose in an attempt to spin the tail around. The single prop plane initially spun, then drifted into the lake. Booth said that he looked down and saw two, maybe three feet of clear water. He stepped into the water and reached out to grab the plane.

But the mud bottom of the lake didn't support Booth's weight. He sunk into the bottom and found himself completely submerged in the water. He managed to wiggle up and yelled for Pierce's wife, Martha.

"She couldn't possible hear me out there," Booth said. "They wouldn't be watching me. They couldn't see me."

"Then I saw a white pick-up coming into the property," he said.

Hardin said that he wanted to keep an eye on the octogenarian and followed him to Pierce's home in his truck. Booth was chest deep in the water when the Hardin found him.

"He couldn't get out," said Hardin. "His legs were stuck in the water."

He ran over, grabbed Booth's arms and tried to pull him out, but that hurt Booth, so he had to try other methods.

"He tried everything to get me out," said Booth. "He didn't pull my hair or anything."

The mechanic had some difficulty, but he managed to get the 250-pound recreational flier out of the water.

"I tipped like a log so he could slide me over," Booth, who has flown for 25 years, said.

Hardin said that his client just became a little panicked in the water.

"I just grabbed him and said, 'You're fine, you're fine," he said.

Booth said that he went home soaking wet and covered in mud, but was fine otherwise and will continue to fly.

"I saved him with brute strength," said Hardin. "Just kidding."

Tony Cella can be reached at

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