Meredith Land, NBC 5 News
One of the men who helped pull a North Texas family from the ocean after the small plane they were in crashed off the coast of a Caribbean island says he was in the right place at the right time.
A tropical adventure turned into a terrifying fight for survival for a vacationing Richardson family when their plane crashed into the ocean.
A group of strangers risked their lives to save the Atkinses on Jan. 11 along the coast of Roatan, a small island in the Caribbean off Honduras.
"We crashed," said Andy Atkins, an attorney in Dallas. "We lost an engine, is what I was told, and we crashed into the ocean and flipped over and were stuck underwater."
Atkins; his wife, Jenny; and their 4-year-old son, Logan; were on a sightseeing ride. Atkins said he had flown in the small seaplane once before to enjoy the sights along the coast of Roatan.
"It was just an awesome fun ride, that's all I can tell you," he said. "Great views and great pictures and a slow-flying plane that felt very stable."
The plane's pilot helped Atkins get to the surface, but there was no sign of his wife and son.
"I dove back under looking for them, came back, got air, went immediately back down, and I just came up and I had Logan in my arms and, by the time i got to the surface, Jenny was also at the surface with the pilot holding her," Atkins said.
Several people on a nearby boat quickly dove in to save them.
"We were all still in shock at that point," Atkins said. "We knew that we had survived the initial crash, but we didn't know where it was going to go from there."
Remarkably, a U.S. Navy doctor and another physician were among the divers on much a larger boat. They immediately started treating Atkins' wife and son.
"They screamed that there's two doctors on board," he said. 'They got both of them on the back of that boat to give them oxygen and treated them with all their skill."
The entire family spent days in a hospital before returning home late Thursday night.
"It reaffirms your faith in people and humanity that so many people stepped in to help that didn't have to," Atkins said. "We appreciate that we feel like we've been given a second chance, and we want to try and help other people when we see other people that need help."
The Atkinses are already planning another family trip to Roatan in June.
"It only strengthens our feelings about Roatan," Atkins said. "It was a terrible accident and, obviously, we're not going to be going up in any planes like that again."