MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The pilot of a banner plane that crashed Monday in the surf in Myrtle Beach says he’s thankful no one else was hurt and for the rescuers who helped after the 1940s-era Piper PA-12 went down near 40th Avenue North.

“I went through the procedures, and when I realized there was no way to avoid going down, I called the tower let them know and started looking for a place to land,” Jason Hurley said Wednesday via a FaceTime interview from his hospital bed. “I think the scariest part was trying to make sure I avoided people.” 

Hurley, an Army veteran with 23 years of experience, said he was injured when his head hit the frame of the aircraft. He said he couldn’t move his arms or unbuckle his seat belt after the crash, which happened at about 11:30 a.m.

He said he struggled to stay above water and kept taking deep breaths until several people ran to help him from the water and drag the plane closer to the shore.

“They had like 40 people just start pulling the plane up out of the water,” he said.

He had surgery Wednesday to fuse some vertebrae together and repair a herniated disk, but said “nothing broke, luckily.”

As for what caused the crash, Hurley said he isn’t completely sure what happened.

“I don’t really know what happened as far as why the plane did what it did,” he said. “I mean it just had engine failure, which happens.” 

Hurley said he doesn’t see himself as a hero for avoiding hurting anyone on the beach.

“I’m not the hero just because I crashed an airplane,” he said. “The people that saved me are the heroes and I’d like to find out who they are and be able to thank them.” 

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. The agency will first issue a preliminary report and then a final report, which typically takes a year or more to complete.

Editor’s note: News13 attempted to interview Hurley at Grand Strand Medical Center but the hospital would not allow us on the property, despite multiple calls to the hospital’s spokesperson and Hurley agreeing to an interview.

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Adrianna Lawrence is a multimedia journalist at News13. Adrianna is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and joined the News13 team in June 2023 after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in May 2023. Keep up with Adrianna on Instagram, Facebook, and X, formerly Twitter. You can also read more of her work, here.