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Mom of fighter jet pilot who crashed in Hawaii details son's heroic efforts

It's a mother's worst nightmare.

Elaine Regan sat down with WFXT to describe the moment she got the phone call telling her that her son, Matthew Pothier, had crashed his fighter jet into the Pacific Ocean.

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“He was one of those kids that knew early on that he wanted to be an aviator, specifically, a jet pilot," said Regan. "He had a wonderful experience with the Andover school systems. He was always, you know, the top 5 percent of his class. He got a full scholarship from Holy Cross as a physics major."

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Pothier, an Andover native and Hawaii Air National Guard civilian contractor, is now recovering in a Hawaiian hospital after his plane crashed off the coast of Honolulu during a military exercise.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said a Hawker Hunter jet went down in the ocean around 2:25 p.m. Wednesday after taking off from Honolulu's airport.

Pothier was rescued about 3 miles south of Oahu near Honolulu's Sand Island, the U.S. Coast Guard said. He had been participating in a military exercise called Sentry Aloha, which was temporarily suspended after the crash. 

Just two days ago, Regan said, her heart nearly stopped when her daughter-in-law called her from Hawaii to tell her Pothier's Hawker Hunter jet had crashed and while he had safely ejected from the aircraft, he still suffered serious injuries.

“My heart stopped," said Regan. "It’s that, you know, as a mom, those are telephone calls you don’t want to get about your children. He was critical, at that point. They didn’t know exactly how extensive his injuries would be.”

While waiting to hear just how bad the crash had been, Regan tuned in to local Hawaiian news online and watched the video of the crash on repeat.

“We saw the crash and we saw his body in the air when he ejected from the plane," said Regan.

A former Navy pilot commander living in Honolulu, Pothier now trains military pilots for combat, but Regan said his love for flying started right here in Massachusetts.

Pothier trained in Pensacola and served overseas in combat. Regan said his training saved her son's life and the lives of others on Wednesday.

“He knew that he had to do exactly what he was trained to do and he ejected at the very last moment making sure that his Hawker Hunter wasn’t going to hurt anyone and he did it. He’s a hero to me,” said Regan.

After hours of waiting, Regan finally got a call from Pothier, and was finally able to breathe and relax after hearing her son's voice.

“It was like Christmas morning -- you know, when you get that present that you always wish for, his voice and that happy smile that he always has," said Regan. "He said, 'Hi, ma,' and I knew, I knew that he was going to be OK.”

Pothier has a few compression fractures on his spine, but said he already has plans to fly again as soon as he's out of the hospital and done with therapy.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, the military said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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