COAST GUARD AIR STATION BARBERS POINT, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The couple who survived an emergency landing in the ocean recounts the terrifying moments they were stranded at sea with their one-year-old daughter, after their flight was forced to land in waters off Oahu in January.
The Collazo family says their pilot's skills, their Army training, and will to survive are the reasons they are all alive today.
They say their daughter Ariana, who has since turned two, didn't make a sound when the single-engine airplane hit the ocean.
"For a moment I thought she wasn't there with us no more,” she said.
But Ariana was sleeping. And seconds later, water started flooding the plane.
The mother was the first to get out of the Cessna, followed by the pilot Jose Manzano, then Ariana, and then her husband Arnaldo.
"I don't know what got in my head that I could just take that moment and try to survive it with my daughter. But I had her above and I was drowning," the mother said.
The woman doesn't know how to swim. So Manzano swam under her to inflate her life vest while her husband got out of the sinking plane.
"I was just asking God...if anybody had to be gone that day...just don't let my daughter die like this...no, I don't want that," she said.
Arnaldo said everything was happening so fast, they didn't have time to inflate their life jackets when the plane was heading toward the ocean.
"For me at one point it was like is this for real? I thought myself...is this really happening," said Arnaldo.
Arnaldo and his wife took turns passing their baby back and forth while waves were crashing over their heads.
"Every time he would tell me, ‘I'm tired, I'm tired,' I was telling him, ‘Don't let go of my baby,'” said the woman.
Arnaldo is a Schofield soldier in the 8th Military Police Brigade and he says his military training helped him and his family survive.
Manzano didn't have time to put on his life jacket, so he treaded water for an hour until the Coast Guard arrived.
It wasn't until the four of them touched land at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point that they celebrated their survival.
And today, more than a month later, the Collazo family is thankful to the Coast Guard and their pilot, Jose Manzano, for saving their lives.
“Especially with my daughter, she didn't have no scratches, no bumps, no nothing, she was completely perfect," Arnaldo said.
"I am eternally grateful for everything he did for me that day,” said the woman.
“I owe him everything…so I don't have more words to say,” she said through teary eyes.
“But for me, they're sacred, I owe them everything."
The Federal Aviation Administration and The National Transportation Safety Board have not finalized their reports.