Pilot who crash-landed plane ‘owes his life’ to London’s Air Ambulance Charity

The wife of a pilot who crash-landed into woodland from 300ft has said it is “remarkable” that he survived as she paid tribute to emergency services for saving her husband’s life.

Jo Aubrey was working in Manchester when she found out her husband Mike was involved in a plane crash in East London.

She described “the most awful train journey” as she travelled down to the capital, reading news articles about the light aircraft crash which described “potentially life threatening injuries”.

The comments come as she praised emergency care workers for saving Mr Aubrey’s life.

“Given what happened on that day, it is remarkable Mike is still here with us,” said Mrs Aubrey.

“We owe Mike’s life to London’s Air Ambulance Charity and all the clinicians who looked after him in hospital. Without them it could so easily have been a different outcome.”

The accident, on April 4 last year, occurred after Mr Aubrey realised there was an issue with his two-seater plane.

The father-of-two had reached 300ft when the plane’s engine stopped and would not restart.

Mr Aubrey made a split second decision to steer the plane away from electricity pylons, an industrial estate and a busy road.

The plane smashed through trees before hitting the ground.

The crash, which took place near Damyns Hall Aerodrome in Aveley Road in Upminster, sparked a large emergency response from police, fire and ambulance crews.

London’s Air Ambulance was also dispatched and crews from the charity were the first on scene.

After locating the crash site overhead, the crew landed in a nearby field and made their way through the woodlands to get to Mr Aubrey and his passenger.

Although fully alert and awake, Mr Aubrey was trapped in the wreckage as well as being badly injured.

He was given a pain relief lollipop to help with the pain while London Fire Brigade (LFB) and the London Ambulance Service Hazardous Area Response Team made a plan to extract him from the wreck.

Mr Aubrey, 58, had broken a number of ribs, which compromised his breathing, and had broken his left ankle.

He was sedated as experts freed him from the crumpled plane, before carrying him to the field where the London Air Ambulance helicopter had landed.

Paramedics from the Air Ambulance and London Ambulance Service gave him general anaesthetic so they could perform a surgical procedure on a collapsed lung and realign his broken ankle.

He was then taken by helicopter to the nearest major trauma centre when his wife was informed of the accident.

Mike visited the London Air Ambulance helipad to meet the people who rescued him (London Air Ambulance)
Mike visited the London Air Ambulance helipad to meet the people who rescued him (London Air Ambulance)

“I was in Manchester at the time for work, so I had to catch the next train back to London,” said Mrs Aubrey.

“It was the most awful train journey I have ever had. The crash was being reported on in the news, using words like ‘life-changing’ and ‘life-critical injuries’.”

Mr Aubrey was in a coma for three weeks and was only able to return home a month after the accident.

Mrs Aubrey, who has become her husband’s full-time carer, said: “Mike came home on 7 May and I’ve looked after him ever since.

“At the beginning, he would have a lot of flashbacks from the incident and you’d see blind fear in his face. It was horrible.”

Mr Aubrey is still living with the after-effects of the accident including a severe ankle injury, tiredness and a lack of concentration.

“He is a different Mike now. But he is still here, and I am so lucky,” said Mrs Aubrey.

“I can’t believe the service that saved him is a charity. It wouldn’t be here without support from the public. And Mike wouldn’t be here without it.

“The air ambulance service doesn’t stop after they deliver the patient to hospital, in our experience they were a constant source of support. They would appear on the bleakest of days and help us find the positives.”

The family have since visited London Air Ambulance’s helipad and met the team who helped save Mr Aubrey.

Mr Aubrey said: “I have no idea what the future holds for me. There is still a long road for me to travel and I’m sure it will have lots of ups and downs. I do however have a future and for that I will forever be grateful.”

– London Air Ambulance runs as a charity and is trying to raise £15 million to replace its two helicopters. People can donate to the appeal by visiting: www.londonsairambulance.org.uk/up-against-time-appeal