A fearless dad who rushed to the aid of a pilot whose plane ditched in the sea has described the moment he found the crash victim face down in the water.
Quick-thinking Michael Cox, 34, was enjoying his first Herne Bay air show yesterday when the single-seater plane went into the sea at about 3.30pm.
The father-of-one, who has been hailed a hero by eye-witnesses, was the first of about a dozen spectators to run to the pilot’s aid.
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The Turbulent Display team aircraft hit the water in front of thousands of spectators, but the pilot was able to walk away with only minor injuries after his plane was upside down in the water.
Mr Cox told KentOnline this morning: “We saw this plane coming in and I pointed out that he was really low, and as I watched I could see he was going to hit the water.
VIDEO: Jamie Lloyd describes helping to rescue the pilot
“When he landed, I started to run out to get there and I got there before anyone else.
“The pilot was face down in the water because the plane had flipped – I lifted it immediately and got the pilot out of the water.”
Mr Cox, of Priory of St Jacob, Wincheap, helped drag the plane out of the sea.
He has been hailed a hero by eye-witnesses, who saw the plane crash just an hour after the Red Arrows had given a spectacular display.
Mr Cox, who works as a maths teacher at the King’s School in Canterbury, was joined by his friend James Lloyd, who helped to rescue the pilot.
Mr Cox added: “The pilot was unresponsive for a few seconds.
“He was a bit shaken up with a gash on his head, but it could have been so much worse.
“We reckoned he was under water for 20 seconds.”
Air show organiser Gerald McCarthy, from the BayPromoTeam, posted on Facebook this afternoon that the pilot is now back at home and in "good shape".
Eyewitness Nigel Hancock photographed the moment the plane crashed into the sea.
VIDEO: The plane ditches into the sea
He said: “The display team was coming towards the end of its routine, and I saw a plane coming down low and slowly, beyond the parameters of its normal flight routines.
“I thought he was in trouble, so I took a series of shots of what happened. It looked to be a textbook forced landing.
“I saw about a dozen people going into the water which was very heroic, bearing in mind the pilot was underwater and struggling to get out.
“If they hadn’t flipped the plane over quickly it could have been a lot worse. Due to their quick actions the pilot was relatively unharmed.”
Commenting on KentOnline, another witness sparky3116 wrote: “The guy in the white T-shirt who is racing to the plane deserves a medal. He was in the water and running before it even turned over.”
A spokesman from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch confirmed this morning that a team has been deployed to investigate the accident.