Pilot recovering after sea rescue ordeal

Author: By Jeananne Craig and Rosamond Hutt, Press Association

The light aircraft, believed to have been flown from Britain, went down off
the south-east coast of Ireland yesterday afternoon.

The pilot, believed to be in his 50s, was the only person on board and was
winched to safety by a rescue helicopter after he was spotted on the wing of
the Avid Speedwing single engine aircraft.

It is understood he was suffering from shock and hypothermia.

Irish Coast Guard crews said rowers on the British Orchid boat raised the
alarm when they saw the aircraft landing on the sea at Tuskar Rock, off Co
Wexford, shortly before 5pm.

As the rescue helicopter arrived at the scene it was beginning to sink.

The Rosslare RNLI lifeboat, which was also on the scene within 28 minutes,
stood by as the pilot was raised by the Irish Coast Guard helicopter.

The crew then towed the craft and landed it ashore at Carne beach.

Rosslare RNLI Coxswain Brendan Pitt said: “The pilot was lucky and conditions
were quite calm.

“When he was safely winched into the helicopter we set about establishing a
tow between the lifeboat and the aircraft that would keep it in one piece so
that it can be technically examined by the experts.”

A spokeswoman from Ireland’s Department of Transport said: “The pilot’s
injuries are not life-threatening.

“He was safely winched off the aircraft at around 5.25pm.

“He was met by an ambulance at Waterford Airport and transferred to hospital.”

It is not yet known from where in the UK the man had flown.

Witness Oliver Dudley, a crew member on the British Orchid, said he and three
teammates, who are hoping to break a record for the fastest time taken to
row around Britain, attempted to rescue the pilot.

Mr Dudley, 33, said: “We sent out a Mayday signal but the coastguard said they
were about 20 minutes away.

“We could see the wreckage and the pilot standing on the wing of the plane
waving his arms, so we rowed like a bat out of hell towards it.

“I could see the pilot had blood on his head and he shouted that the plane was
sinking. We were in a treacherous stretch of water and could not get close
enough so we chucked him a line but the helicopter arrived and winched him
up.”

The wreckage is being secured by coastguard crews and will be towed in to
Rosslare Harbour.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) said two inspectors were sent to
the scene to examine the aircraft and determine the cause of the crash.

“We don’t have any idea yet why it crashed,” said a spokesman.

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