A holidaymaker has described the terrifying moment a plane suddenly appeared ‘out of nowhere’ and its shocked pilot locked eyes with him as it plummeted into the sea.
Alex Cason, from Surrey, had travelled to Poole Harbour from Surrey to fish with a pal for the day when suddenly a plane came hurtling toward them.
He said he was just metres away from pilot who was staring silently ahead in shock as a young woman out of view screamed.
The Bournemouth Air Festival ‘wing walking’ plane with two aboard crash-landed into the water then sank within seconds – narrowly avoiding nearby rocks, boats and a hotel.
Footage showed the pilot and crew being rescued by a boat nearby, and Dorset Police have confirmed the pair sustained injuries but were safe in an outcome another wing walker has labelled a ‘miracle’.
But stunned Mr Cason told the Mirror of the heart-stopping seconds where the pair were underwater, leaving him and his pal fearing the worst.
A dramatic photo taken by another witness showed the apparently harnessed person, believed to be a wing-walker, flailing from the nose-diving craft.
Mr Cason and his friend were unaware of all of te drama until the craft suddenly appeared in the right-hand corner of their vision – close enough for him to see the terrified pilot’s face.
The witness, speaking in relief learning the pair were safe, said he was still in shock after what he saw just before 4pm Saturday as he fished at Sandbanks.
Mr Cason said: “I was fishing with a friend just off the rocks when to the right of the rocks I saw this plane just coming towards us.
“I could see the pilot’s face shocked, I was just staring at him, he was just blank.”
Plane appears to veer off course moments before crash
Mr Cason said he heard another person but couldn’t see her.
“The girl was just screaming. She was seriously screaming – it sounded like someone was just going to murder her.”
“It was just horrible. I wasn’t sure if the pilot saw me – I locked my eyes with his, he just looked in shock…it all happened so quickly.
The plane splashed into the sea around 10metres from where he and his friend stood stunned on the rocks.
It floated briefly then sank taking all aboard with it, Mr Cason said.
The cockpit sank underwater for ‘too long’ before the pilot suddenly popped up, along with a young woman, he continued.
“They were submerged for 10 seconds or so… then this little RIB (boat) came over and picked the pilot and a girl out of the sea.”
Mr Cason said he was happy to see the pair survived.
“I just really hope that they are OK. They seemed OK – hopefully they are alright.”
He added: “I just came down for the day to get a bit of sunshine. I wasn’t expecting to see that.”
Witness Peter Keats told the Mirror he and his family were in the beach hut at Flaghead Chine when they heard the plane’s engine cutting in and out.
“There was a puff of smoke from the white plane which then broke formation with a bank to the left out towards Studland Bay.”
The plane turned right then plummeted rapidly to Sandbanks, at Poole Harbour’s entrance, he said.
“We assumed it had crash landed into the harbour – it would have had about 10 seconds max flight remaining when we lost sight of it.
“Nut full control appeared to be maintained throughout the descent which gave us hope that the occupants of the aircraft would escape with their lives.
Mr Keats praised the pilot after hearing both occupants survived.
The pilot should be commended for saving himself, his passenger and for landing without hitting any craft through the extremely busy entrance to Poole Harbour. It is a small gap and numerous craft were returning back to Poole after the earlier Red Arrows display.”
Witness Emily McGregor told Dorset Live the small prop plane had “narrowly avoided numerous boats and The Haven Hotel” as it plunged into the water.
“As it rounded the corner by The Haven it got lower and lower and crashed out of view of people on Sandbanks beach, narrowly missing the hotel,” she said.
Former wing walker Tony Miles told the Mirror the expert stunt performers are typically harnessed to the plane.
Mr Miles, who performed the daredevil stunt for the BBC Radio 1 Roadshow for years from the 1970s onwards, labelled the pair’s survival as nothing short of a ‘miracle.’
He described how wing walkers are usually attached to the top of a plane with ties, and a pole attached along their back – allowing them to perform ‘acrobatics’ upside down and hands-free.
So a performer would likely have been unable to loosen themselves from a ‘ditching’ aircraft, he explained.
“I don’t know what kind of communication the pilot would have had with the wing walker given I don’t think they’re in communication, but when you’re on top of the plane with it going down that be very scary.”
He insisted wing-walking was generally “very safe” and such incidents rare as he praised the pair’s incredible survival feat.
Mr Miles added that it was lucky the plane had not crashed on land, as it remained unclear whether the pilot was steering the aircraft in its final seconds.
“I think it’s a miracle,” he said.
Air festival organisers said the pair were “safe and sound” following the incident and were being looked after by emergency services as flying was suspended until further notice.
Dorset Police confirmed the pair had been safely rescued and were reported to have sustained minor injuries.
An investigation into the incident was underway, the force added.