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How To Be A Man When Dealing With A Disastrous Situation

Sometimes being a guy is tricky. Here’s our indispensable guide to acting like a man when the going gets tough.

On December 11, 2013, Ferdinand Puentes, 40, was flying home to Honolulu after a day’s work fitting solar panels on Molokai Island when the light aircraft’s engine exploded, sending him and eight others on board plummeting into the sea. Here's his account of the situation, and how he survived.

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"We had only been in the air for two minutes when we heard a massive bang. I looked along
the aisle through the cockpit window just as the view of cloudy sky turned to sea. We were going down.

When your plane is about to crash, all you can do is brace for impact and pray. I looked around at the other passengers. They were in shock. No screaming, no shouting, just pure fear in every face. When you’re seconds from death, your life really does flash before your eyes. In that moment, time seemed to stop and the whole library of my memory reeled through my mind. We hit the water with a deafening splash and we were thrown from our seats.

With your plane in the water, you have to get out as fast as you can. As soon as someone opened the door, icy seawater cascaded into the cabin. I knew if we didn’t get out, the craft would sink with us inside. My body switched into survival mode. I jumped out and grabbed hold of the wing. I saw a female passenger also clinging to the wing in panic. She couldn’t swim. She was calling out for help with her life jacket so I swam over to try and calm her down. As soon as I had got her life jacket on, I realized I hadn’t inflated mine.

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My steel-toed workman boots and jeans were dragging me underwater. I desperately wanted to take them off to keep me afloat, but I knew that was a bad idea, for two reasons. First, if I made it to shore, the waves could slam me into a reef. Second, there are sharks everywhere. Tiger sharks are the ones to beware of. They are the garbage disposals of the sea and eat anything. If you thrash about, they are more likely to come for you.

It was a mistake trying to swim the half-mile to land. I soon found myself alone in the water. I became overwhelmed with exhaustion, with a terrible pain in my neck and shoulders from the crash. There, I hit rock bottom, ready to give myself up to the sea.

That’s when I saw it. A giant humpback whale leapt from the water barely 10 meters from me and splashed back into the water. When it resurfaced, it looked right at me. As our eyes met, its gaze pierced my soul, like it was willing me on. I found new strength. When you feel all is lost, think of those you love. I saw my wife and five children smiling at me once more and grew determined to see them again. I swam for shore with newfound strength.

Suddenly a whir of propeller blades filled the air. It was the Coast Guard. God had given me another chance; I would see my family again. I couldn’t sleep for three months afterwards. To this day I suffer flashbacks, but it helps to talk about it. Since that day, I count every day as a blessing."

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