When Mel Gibson became engulfed in the scandal that ultimately led to his downfall as a leading man, one actor was quick to leap to his defense – and it wasn’t Robert Downey Jr.
Patrick Swayze regarded Gibson as a friend. And despite the incident that saw an intoxicated Gibson blame the Jewish community for “all the wars in the world” he believed the Braveheart star deserved a break. “I feel really bad for Mel,” he told GMTV in an interview at the time, adding that Gibson was “a wonderful human being” who should be “allowed to have a stupid moment.”
Swayze’s eagerness to defend Gibson was perhaps understandable – like the Lethal Weapon star, Swayze had his own battles with alcohol. But when does a “stupid moment” become something more serious? It’s a question that seems all the more relevant given some of the accusations being directed at Swayze of late.
Was Swayze capable of his own “stupid moment” or was this simply his way of excusing illegal and dangerous behaviour? There’s another, less talked about, story involving Swayze that offers a glimpse of what the actor was capable of.
In June 2000, Patrick Swayze, an avid pilot, was forced to land his Cessna 414A plane in Arizona. Swayze, who claimed he had to land the plane after falling victim to cabin depressurization, made the emergency landing on a random strip of land he initially thought was an airport near Prescott Valley. Unfortunately for Swayze, it wasn’t anything of the sort. Instead, it was an under-construction housing development and possibly the worst place to try and land a plane.
Calling it a landing is a tad generous too – in the ensuing chaos Swayze’s plane narrowly missed colliding with a parked truck, had half of its right wing ripped off by a streetlamp and bounced erratically through an intersection, colliding with more stop signs and streetlamps before crashing to a halt. Miraculously, no one on the ground was harmed.
More incredibly still, Swayze emerged unscathed alongside his two dogs. He was greeted by construction workers Adam Martin, Brian Nelson and Joshua Angel – three men arguably lucky not to have been caught up in the chaos. They immediately realised something was amiss as Swayze staggered off the plane, allegedly convinced he had landed somewhere near his ranch in New Mexico.
The problem soon became apparent – Swayze was drunk. Very drunk. So drunk, in fact, he apparently convinced the trio of star-struck construction workers to help him dispose of a box of 30 Miller Lite beers – eight of which had been drunk – along with an open bottle of Chimeny Rock Cabernet Sauvignon.
Two witnesses later quoted in a National Transportation Safety Board report claimed to have “smelled alcohol in the airplane, but not on the pilot” but, more tellingly, that Swayze had “asked the witnesses to make up a story about what they had seen.”
Had they seen a drunk, out of control pilot, nearly killed several people with his reckless actions? Not according to Swayze, who denied consuming alcohol before or during the flight – he had only crash-landed because of a pressurization problem. There was just one problem with that version of events: in the immediate aftermath of the crash, Swayze hitched a lift into town from a fourth, unnamed, construction worker and was nowhere to be seen.
While investigators examined the wreckage and made multiple attempts to contact the actor, he went underground, disappearing for around 12 hours. Why only 12 hours though? Police noted that, once Swayze returned to the scene, the “minimum time required to obtain a toxicology sample” had passed. Doing a breathalyser then was completely pointless, even if he had been drunk.
But while tests for carbon monoxide, cyanide, ethanol, and drugs were not performed on Swayze, the NTSB ultimately determined that probable causes of the accident were Swayze’s impairment from the “cumulative effects of carbon monoxide from engine exhaust by-products, carbon monoxide from heavy tobacco use, and the loss of an undetermined amount of cabin pressurization.” Without a sobriety test, it was difficult to suggest otherwise.
And, in a bizarre twist, Swayze escaped all charges but the three construction workers who spoke to police were eventually arrested for making false statements in their first interviews over the incident.
Was Swayze just the victim of an unfortunate accident or was this just one of those stupid moments?A stupid moment that could have resulted in the deaths of several people. If the claims of those workers are true. The question you also have to ask is: does this story show the depths of deception Swayze was willing to sink to and how far he would go to protect himself? Why not stay at the crash site, which is the standard practice in incidents like this?
The reality is that, as with some of the others claims being made currently, Swayze isn’t here to give his side of the story. He was a self-confessed alcoholic who battled his fair share of demons and undoubtedly made mistakes.
But where do you draw the line? At what point does it become too much? When do your heroes stop being exactly that? Has that time come for Swayze or are there two sides to every story? Most fans probably know the answers to all of those questions – they might not like them though.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.