Saving grace
U.S. Coast Guard rescuers pull David Lesh aboard a helicopter on Tuesday evening after Lesh's BE-36 airplane plunged into the ocean. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

It was a plane crash and an Instagram moment. As David Lesh’s airplane crashed into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday evening, a few miles south of Half Moon Bay, his friends documented the crash and rescue efforts from a second plane nearby.

While floating in the frigid water, surrounded by jellyfish, Lesh took out his waterproof phone and captured his plane as it slipped into the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

Some might have panicked, but Lesh was ready for his close-up.

“There really wasn’t much to do besides wait for the Coast Guard to come,” Lesh said. “(Taking video) seemed like a pretty obvious thing to do.”

By morning, Lesh’s story of survival traveled as far away as New York where it was picked up by “Good Morning America.” Lesh, who already has a popular social media presence, said he gained over 1,000 Instagram followers overnight.

Lesh is no stranger to the media spotlight. He acknowledges a history of thrill-seeking behavior.

However, Lesh is adamant the crash on Tuesday was not a stunt.

“I have another perfectly good airplane that I am selling that would have been much more ideal to dunk into the Pacific,” Lesh said.

On Wednesday, two government agencies announced they were investigating the plane crash. Lesh is also under investigation by the U.S. Forest Service for allegedly snowmobiling in designated wilderness in July, according to Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.

On July 3, Karin Teague said she saw Lesh and another man on  snowmobiles riding over the dry terrain in the mountains of Colorado. Teague is the executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation in Aspen, Colo. She explained the men were driving in a vehicle-free zone across fragile tundra.

Teague confronted them and took photos for evidence. Lesh maintains he did not violate any rules that day. 

“That was a bunch of media nonsense,” Lesh said.

Fitzwilliams said his office received calls about posts to social media showing Lesh snowmobiling in the area that day.

Teague, who resides in Colorado, heard about the plane crash early on Wednesday. She said she was going to withhold judgment until she learns more about what happened off the coast of Half Moon Bay.

“It does seem like he’s on a collision course with trouble,” Teague said.

Earlier this year, Lesh made an April Fool’s social media post staging his alleged kidnap by a drug cartel. The post asked for donations to his outwear company.

“We tried to do something goofy and attention-grabbing on April Fool’s Day,” Lesh said.

Social media posts also show Lesh has traveled on several occasions with Instagram celebrity Dan Bilzerian, who boasts nearly 28 million followers. Lesh said he was on the West Coast to visit Bilzerian this week.

Lesh appeared on the Powell Movement Action Sports Podcast in February where he discussed his life.

“You’re a clean-cut kid. Every single parent seems to love you,” said host Mike Powell. “But there is a side of Dave Lesh that is smart but also -- I wouldn’t say con-man -- there’s a deceptive nature to Dave Lesh.”

“There’s a hustle there for sure,” Lesh said in response.

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