Search for missing man after plane crash called off

Hill Head coastguard called to woman stuck in mud

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The search for a missing person following a light aircraft crash in the English Channel has been called off.

Two people were on board the private plane, which came down off the coast of Guernsey yesterday.

One woman was later taken to hospital in France after a massive rescue operation, but rescuers called off the search for the second person – believed to be her husband – at midday today.

The Piper Warrior aircraft, which belongs to Alderney Flying Training Club, took off from Lee-on-the-Solent and was returning to the Channel Islands when the crash happened around 3.50pm.

The Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre based in Jobourg, France, searched the area until midnight yesterday and resumed at 7am today before calling off the operation.

Colin La Ray, director of Guernsey Airport, said two people were on board the aircraft which came down 25 miles off the coast of the Channel Isle after having taken off from Lee-on-the-Solent.

He said yesterday: ‘Shortly before 3.50pm a single-engined private aircraft with two persons on board ditched into the sea – 25 miles north-west of the coast of Guernsey.

‘Emergency crews called to the scene included the Channel Islands Search and Rescue Helicopter.

‘The aircraft was based in Alderney, and was en route from the south coast of the UK.’

Mr La Ray said that as the plane had come down in international waters, French coastguards were co-ordinating the search and rescue efforts.

The woman from the plane was found on a liferaft by a Russian merchant ship, the Jork Rider, which responded to a mayday call, Guernsey Coastguard said.

She was airlifted to Cherbourg hospital, in France, while the search continued for the other person.

A Portsmouth-based river class offshore patrol vessel for the Royal Navy joined in the search yesterday because of its night vision capabilities.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘HMS Tyne has been diverted from duties in UK waters to assist with the French-led operation to search for the light aircraft.’

Also taking part were lifeboats from Alderney and Normandy – with a large tug boat named the Abeille Liberte also deployed.

Lieutenant Commander Will Peters, of HMS Tyne, said lifeboats, fishing boats and merchant vessels all helped with the rescue efforts.

A fishing boat found wreckage believed to be from around the plane’s wheel and soon after the woman was discovered floating with a liferaft.

He told the BBC: ‘A merchant vessel had deployed one of its sea boats to pick her up out of the water where she was floating with her inflatable liferaft.

‘Then I believe a French helicopter winched her up from that merchant vessel and took her back to France.’