Wingwalker plane pilot ‘deserves a medal’ after harbour crash

The Red Arrows perform during the Bournemouth Air Festival on September 02, 2021 in Bournemouth.
The Red Arrows perform during the Bournemouth Air Festival on September 02, 2021 in Bournemouth.

The pilot of a wingwalker plane which crashed into a harbour during an air display deserves a medal, according to rescuers.

The two-seat biplane had been taking part in the Bournemouth Air Festival when it came down in Poole Harbour, near Sandbanks, on Saturday afternoon.

Libby Chambers, her partner, Alan Badenhorst, and their three children had been watching the air show from a dinghy and witnessed the crash.

“The pilot was straight out and I remember he pulled the wingwalker out and she was in quite a state really – she was petrified and couldn’t stop screaming,” Ms Chambers told the Bournemouth Echo.

The family went to rescue the pilot and wingwalker and pulled them into their dinghy.

“The pilot was incredible, he deserves a medal – I have no idea how he missed the rocks, the marker and the boats – he was just out of this world,” added Ms Chambers.

Dorset Police said the two crew members suffered minor injuries.

Eyewitness Gill Jarvis, 50, from Christchurch, was on an open-top bus with her daughter when she saw the plane crash.

“We hadn’t quite set off on the Swanage ferry and it just happened in front of our eyes,” she told the PA news agency.

“I think the engine was off and it was silent. So you couldn’t really hear anything. And then it just suddenly went in the sea.”

She described hearing news of the crew’s survival as “a huge relief”.

Organisers of the display, which attracts thousands of people each year, said the flying schedule had been suspended for the rest of the day but was going ahead as planned on Sunday.

Following Saturday’s incident, the site has been secured and members of the public are requested to avoid the area.

The aircraft will be recovered in due course, subject to tides and harbour traffic.

“We would like to thank the RNLI, Coastguard, South West Ambulance, Dorset Police, Poole Harbour Commissioners and all those who took part in the rescue of the two people aboard the aircraft,” the organisers said.

“It is a huge relief for all those involved in the air festival that the incident has resulted in the display crew being removed from the water safe and well.”