With not enough fuel to make it back to land and no other options, Nguyen tells the crew of the USS Kirk of a desperate plan. If he just hovers the helicopter over the deck he could have his passengers leap the 10 or more feet down to the deck. It is a risky move considering the youngest of Nguyen’s three children is his 10 month old daughter. But with no other option Nguyen moves his helicopter close to the deck of the USS Kirk. The seas were calm but any change in the seas, the wind or even the speed of the destroyer could spell death for those aboard the Chinook and the men aboard the USS Kirk.
Once the helicopter is in place Nguyen orders women and children out of the helicopter first. He watches as his wife takes a deep breath and tosses their daughter out of the helicopter and into the waiting arms of a sailor. His young sons follow her. All three arrive safely on deck. He bids his wife farewell and she jumps. The rest of the passengers follow suit leaving only Nguyen on the helicopter.
His only chance for survival is to ditch the helicopter. In order to ensure the safety of his family and the rest of the people aboard the USS Kirk he had to make sure that the helicopter crashed far away from the ship. He flies the aircraft over the ocean and does something that astounds the men on the USS Kirk. Nguyen knew that his heavy flight suit would cause him to sink and be unable to make the swim to the USS Kirk. He begins to strip out of the flight suit all the while keeping the helicopter in a perfect hover just over the water. He stripped down to just a white shirt and his boxers.
In a final Hail Mary he rolled the helicopter to the right while jumping out to the left. The helicopter crashed in spectacular fashion while the men watched from the ship. They frantically searched the water to see if the daring pilot had survived and they were relieved to see his head appear above the water. A boat was sent to get him and he was reunited with his family.
Ba Van Nguyen and his family made a very successful and happy life for themselves in the United States. They arrived with nothing and speaking very little English but Ba Van Nguyen was determined not to waste his second chance. 40 years later the men of the USS Kirk continued to wonder what had happened to the Chinook pilot and his family. Nguyen’s oldest son learned of their search and revealed that his father was the man they were looking for. Nguyen and his family were invited to a USS Kirk reunion and many of the sailors were overjoyed to see the children they had saved all grown up. At the reunion Ba Van Nguyen was presented with an Air Medal for heroic feats while flying.