Darren Harrison believes it was "the hand of God" that helped him save his own life and the lives of the pilot and fellow passenger.
Darren Harrison has been in the news for his heroic landing of a Cessna 208 plane when the pilot fell ill. His decisive, calm, and faith-filled actions led to him taking control of the plane — despite no previous flying experience — and landing it safely.
In an interview with Savannah Guthrie for NBC’s Today show, the passenger-turned-pilot shared some key points behind the rescue mission, and how God had a huge part to play.
The pilot’s near-miraculous recovery
Harrison describes the moment when he had to bypass the pilot, who was unresponsive in his seat, to try and contact air traffic control. The fact that the pilot never succumbed to his aortic dissection — a dangerous tear in the body’s main artery — was “a miracle right there,” as Guthrie pointed out. Harrison could only agree, describing it as the “scariest part of the whole story.”
In fact, a cardiologist at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Dr. Nishant Patel, explained that the chances of surviving such a dissection are limited:
“Fifty percent of patients won’t make it to the hospital, and then 50 percent of patients that do make it to the hospital will pass away within 24 hours without prompt diagnosis and treatment.”
Amazingly, the pilot was released from hospital on Monday, having undergone life-saving surgery.
Finding calm in all the chaos
There seemed to be a higher power at work during the entire ordeal, giving Harrison the ability to remain extremely calm during the frightening experience. It’s hard to believe, but when Guthrie discussed the interview with her co-presenters, she revealed how Harrison had shared with her that he wasn’t a naturally calm individual, and he’d been using the Bible and Bible studies to help him find more tranquility in his life.
It was exactly his reasoned approach to handling the situation that helped him land the plane successfully, saving his life, as well as the pilot and other passenger.
“I was pretty calm and collected the whole time, because I knew it was a life-or-death situation. Either you do what you have to do to control the situation or you’re gonna die. And that’s what I did,” the hero shared. “In my mind I knew I wasn’t going to die … Today is not my day. I knew I was going to land this airplane.”
Landing without wings
Thankfully, even though his headset had become frayed in the incident and he had to rely on another (just to add to the drama!), he was able to get through to air traffic controller Bobby Morgan.
Morgan was able to help Harrison, who was bare-footed and had no GPS, to get his bearings and lead him toward the airfield in Palm Beach. Although he told Harrison that he was going too fast as he approached the landing strip, and the wing flaps of the single-engine plane weren’t working, Harrison made a smooth landing. Perhaps the wings of his guardian angel helped him get on the ground safely.
In a further twist of events, Harrison’s wife Britney, who is 7 months pregnant with the couple’s first child, shared how she was particularly anxious when her husband’s number came up on her phone earlier than expected. Sadly, her own sister lost her husband when she was six months pregnant last year.
But thankfully, the phone call was to let her know what had happened, and that her husband was safe.
The whole incident proved exhausting for Harrison. Although he explained that his heart rate was in the 90s during the event, when he landed, he felt it was “probably 160.” Yet, after the emergency, his first thought was a prayer to God.
“I said the biggest prayer I’ve ever said in my life … It was a thankful prayer for the safety and everything that had happened. But the last part of the prayer, and the strongest part, was for the guy in the back. Because I knew it was not a good situation.”
Those prayers were answered, since as I mentioned, the pilot is well and now out of hospital.
The experience of God’s presence
After the exhaustion of such an incredible human feat, Guthrie asked the father-to-be how he was able to stay so focused and calm. Harrison simply stated: “God.” He went on to share that “it was the hand of God that was on that plane,” which prompted Guthrie to say “and on you.”
“Yeah, Absolutely. So that’s the only thing I can attribute it to.”
And although he doesn’t understand it, Harrison believes there is a divine purpose in making it through such an the extraordinary event. He hopes to discover more about what that is in the days to come.