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Herne Bay Air Show: Spectators watch plane ditch into sea off Kent coast

Onlookers who rushed to the aid of a pilot whose plane had ditched in the sea have been described as "heroes" for their quick-thinking and bravery.

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.

VIDEO: The moment the plane crashed.

The single-seater plane went into the water at around 3.30pm during the Herne Bay Air Show, just an hour after the Red Arrows had given a spectacular display.

Witnesses rushed onto the beach to help pull the craft out of the water. About a dozen waded out to help the pilot.

Eyewitness Nigel Hancock photographed the moment the plane crashed 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.

Nigel Hancock pictured the moment the aircraft ditched in the sea
Nigel Hancock pictured the moment the aircraft ditched in the sea
Rescuers were quickly on the scene. Picture: Bruno Tilley
Rescuers were quickly on the scene. Picture: Bruno Tilley
The plane shortly after it was dragged to shore. Picture: Bruno Tilley
The plane shortly after it was dragged to shore. Picture: Bruno Tilley
Rescuers attend to the pilot. Picture: Bruno Tilley
Rescuers attend to the pilot. Picture: Bruno Tilley

"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.

The plane flipped over in the water. Pic by Nigel Hancock
The plane flipped over in the water. Pic by Nigel Hancock

"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."

Onlookers - including Michael Cox in the white t-shirt - rush to the pilot's aid. Pic by Nigel Hancock
Onlookers - including Michael Cox in the white t-shirt - rush to the pilot's aid. Pic by Nigel Hancock

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 section of the beach was cleared for a coastguard helicopter to land and the air ambulance was also scrambled. The area has been cordoned off while the recovery of the aircraft was carried out

Those who helped overturn the plane have been described as "heroes". Pic by Nigel Hancock
Those who helped overturn the plane have been described as "heroes". Pic by Nigel Hancock

It is understood that the pilot is relatively unharmed but some of the rescuers may have suffered minor injuries. One witness praised the pilot.

Posting on the KentOnline Facebook page, Amy Bright said: "Absolute credit to the pilot he held it together so well. There were people in the sea at the time but he managed to steer the plane to a safe area in which to land far enough away from onlookers but close enough to receive help. Glad he walked out of it alive and wish him a speedy recovery."

Emergency services including the ambulance, fire brigade, RNLI Lifeboats, and police are at the scene. A Kent Police spokesman said the pilot is being assessed.

The spokesman added that the Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been informed.

The air show is organised by volunteers from the Bay Promo Team. Spokesman Liz Crudgington said it ditched around 500 metres offshore near Bishopstone Glen, between Herne Bay and Reculver.

The plane is examined following the crash. Picture by Ruth Cuerden
The plane is examined following the crash. Picture by Ruth Cuerden

She said: “A member of the Turbulent display team came down into the sea shortly after 3.30pm this afternoon.

“Members of the public helped him get out of the aircraft. The pilot has suffered minor injuries and was examined at the scene by Air Ambulance crews. He has been taken by land ambulance to hospital for further checks.

“The aircraft is still on site and the air show has continued as normal. Obviously it’s very early days but we will be assisting with any investigation that will happen.

Emergency services at the scene
Emergency services at the scene

“It’s too early to say what format that will take, but we will be assisting with any enquiries. The pilot was lucky only to suffer minor injuries when he ditched offshore. Our best wishes go to him in his recovery.”

Safety at air shows was reviewed and stepped up after the Shoreham air disaster last year, where 11 people were killed and 16 injured when a Hawker Hunter aircraft plummeted into a busy road.


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