Happened To...
An update on past news

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Injuries from crash
will keep Coast Guard
pilot grounded

Question: What ever happened to the pilot who was trying to fly to California and ended up ditching his plane in waters off Maui last year?

Answer: Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. William Swears is retired in Chugiak, Alaska, and has an 8-month-old son, born three months after the ditching.

He named his son Michael, a name that came to him during the accident, even though he had intended to name him Bill.

"I had a strong feeling that there was an angel sitting on my shoulder," he said.

Swears, then 43, was badly injured when his home-built plane crashed Nov. 15, 2003, into waters 175 miles north of Maui.

Swears' own Coast Guard unit rescued him after he had floated in the ocean for 3 1/2 hours.

The former Coast Guard helicopter pilot said his back is not strong enough to fly.

"I don't know if I ever will," he said. "I'm in a lot of pain right now."

He has two titanium rods placed in his back, which he should have removed in December 2005.

He suffered two burst vertebrae in the lumbar region of his spine, which means they broke into three to four pieces each. He also fractured his spine in two places.

Doctors operated on him Dec. 12, 2003, and he was released Dec. 23.

Swears suffered first- and second-degree burns and lost all his skin from his rib line down, but that has since grown back.

Next year, Swears will have further surgery to remove the rods and assorted hardware.

He was scheduled to retire in February, but the Coast Guard allowed him to retire at the end of November in order to have a healthy retirement physical, he said.

But Swears has been occupied with another love: writing a novel.

He is working on a sword and sorcery fantasy called "Split Affinity."

He hopes to return to flying one day. His fallback plan is to fly helicopters with a company that performs a variety of services, including mail delivery, bush flying, government contracts and firefighting.

This update was written by Leila Fujimori.

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