2 men survive helicopter crash off Longboat Key

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A helicopter captured the attention of everyone near Coquina Beach late Saturday morning. 

Gary Winthrope had just hit the water on his jet ski when he noticed the helicopter in trouble. 

"He got real low. He came right up," Winthrope recalled. "He was three feet from the water and he did it again, but this time he hit the water real fast."

He couldn't believe what he saw. 

"It was just crazy. They hit the water real fast. They popped back up. The blade just started hitting the water. I thought they were going to fly right off. It was crazy. It was just very scary and it's very surreal," Winthrope said. 

He and others rushed to the site. 

"I was already getting my lifejacket undone to jump in and get them," he said. 

The two men on board the Robinson R22 helicopter were able to escape. 

"We actually train for situations like this. Unfortunately nobody wants this type of situation to happen to them, but it happens," said James Rahming, a passenger aboard the helicopter. 

He tells FOX 13's Kimberly Kuizon he and the pilot were taking photos of boats in the area. The Manatee County Sheriff's Office said the pilot had recently gotten his license.

The Helicopter had the name BOATPIX.COM listed on its side. Rahming said they were scanning the area for boats before the crash happened around 11 a.m. near Jewfish Key. 

"We were shooting some boats. We made a turn that came in and that's when we lost the power and we tried to recover from that," Rahming said. "The helicopter went into the water. We managed to get it to the ground into the water, but then it started to tip on it's side."

The Coast Guard and the Manatee County Sheriff's Office responded to the crash. Both Rahming and the pilot refused medical treatment. 

Rahming walked away with only a few scratches that he received after the crash. 

The helicopter was towed to the Coquina Beach Boat ramp. The FAA will be called in to investigate. 

Rahming says the crash won't keep him out of the air. 

"I take away a lot. I learned a lot from it," he said. "To be honest, I'm ready to go back in the sky. I don't want it to happen again."