Search suspended for pilot whose light aircraft crashed into sea

The search for a pilot whose light aircraft crashed into the sea has been called off overnight.

The plane, with one person on board, plummeted into the water just after 5pm on Saturday around half a mile off Rye Harbour in East Sussex.

Coastguard helicopters and lifeboats combed the sea for survivors but had to call off the search when darkness fell.

An RNLI spokesman said: "HM Coastguard has now stood down the search and the lifeboats have returned to their respective stations.

"The lifeboats will be made ready to re-launch if requested by HM Coastguard."

Wreckage from the plane has been washed ashore and police are appealing for any witnesses to the incident to come forward.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "Just after 5pm on Saturday we received a report from a member of the public that a light aircraft had been seen to go into the sea about half a mile off Winchelsea Beach.

"A Coastguard helicopter has been searching the area, and we are in contact with them.

"Initial reports suggest that the aircraft comes from a local Aero Club and that the man flying it was the sole occupant.

"Some wreckage which is believed to be from aircraft has been found washed ashore at Winchelsea Beach."

A Coastguard spokeswoman said: "UK Coastguard coordinated a search for a light aircraft which ditched into the sea half a mile from Rye Harbour in East Sussex.

"The alarm was raised at 5.05pm and reports indicated one person was on board the aircraft. The aircraft and pilot have not been found."

The Air Accident Investigation Branch has been informed and will be carrying out an investigation.

Anyone who saw what happened is asked to contact Sussex Police on 101 quoting reference 1172 of 06/08.