Pilot Anthony Marsh shows off his injured hand that got 15 stitches at a local hospital Friday morning.
Clearwater, Florida -- He thought he had taken his last breath.
Those were the harrowing words today from a pilot who plunged his plane into the waters off the Bayside Bridge in Clearwater.
Anthony Marsh, 47, says he was that close to not surviving.
Marsh says he could feel his lungs fill with water. He was nearly pinned beneath the plane as it settled on the bottom. But he managed to swim his way to the surface and survive.
"I thank God," said Marsh, standing on the bridge looking down at his now-sunken plane.
At about 2:15 a.m., Marsh could feel the engine die on his Piper PA-28, and rather than try to land it, plunged the aircraft into the water just west of the Bayside Bridge. Why?
"Landing on here or Courtney Campbell would have meant death for more people," he said.
Marsh says he was moving the plane to Clearwater from Pennsylvania. He had stopped to refuel without incident in North Carolina, and was that close to making it here, when the aircraft stalled at about a thousand feet.
When he hit the water, the windshield blew in. Then water then poured in.
"I got my bearings straight, even in the pitch black water, and realized the only way out without knowing where the door was the front windshield and I kicked it out, swam feet first," said Marsh.
He made it to the surface.
Bleeding, soaking wet and cold, Marsh stood on the wing of his plane shouting to a witness who'd phoned for help.
He was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for a black eye, a cut on his head, and "I got a severe laceration here with a lot of stitches," he said showing his gauze-wrapped hand.
Marsh says he understands now what people mean when they talk about seeing their life flash before their eyes.
As he was taking what he thought might be his last breath, he thought about his three children and two grandchildren.
"I was dying. I couldn't breathe anymore and I gulped in water and I actually thought to myself so this is really happening. This is happening. I'm gonna die here."
But he wasn't willing to let that happen.
"I snapped to it and I said there's - I have to get out now."
And he did.
In fact, he was treated and released from the hospital in time to watch salvage crews working to pull his plane from the water at a boat ramp along the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
Grateful for what he calls a miracle.
"I had God watching over me. That's what I believe. And it wasn't time. It wasn't time - It just wasn't time," he says.
Marsh, who is an experienced pilot, says he thinks it was a fuel pump issue.
FAA investigators should be able to figure that out once they've had a chance to take a look at it.
Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv