Search for pilot after light aircraft smashed into the sea near East Sussex beach

THE pilot who is missing after his light aircraft crashed into the sea has been named by police as Simon Wells, 44,  from Greatstone in Kent

The rescue search for him will not be resumed, the coastguard has said.

A rescue helicopter searches for the missing pilot along the East Sussex coast

The plane 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.

A coastguard spokeswoman said the rescue operation will not be resumed, adding: "There was a very intensive search yesterday and there aren't any plans to restart this morning, unless there is any further information.

"The helicopter was at the scene very quickly and if there had been anything on the surface it would have been seen.

"The aircraft and pilot weren't above the water – there was sheen and bits of debris.

"It is not an active search and rescue operation now."



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Remains of the Cherokee aircraft belonging to an Aero Club based in Lydd, Kent, were found dotted across the coastline in the wake of the accident and are being examined by experts.

A spokesman for Sussex Police 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.

"Coastguard helicopters and RNLI boats searched the area, but nobody was found.

"The Cherokee aircraft comes from a local Aero Club based at Lydd Airport in Kent, and the 44-year man flying it, who is also from Kent, was the sole occupant.

"Some wreckage which is believed to be from the aircraft has been found by the Coastguard and has been removed to a secure location for examination by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) who are leading the investigation. They are continuing to liaise with the Coastguard.

Witnesses reported seeing the light aircraft “bouncing” out of control across the waves before it flipped over and sank beneath the water.

One witness said: “I saw what I thought was a speedboat whizzing along, and I thought, ‘God that’s going fast’.

“Then it just went up in the air, flipped over and went down and floated on the surface for quite a while – maybe half a minute.

“Then it just disappeared and you couldn’t see it anymore. The police said that somebody reported they were having trouble with the engine.”

Another added: “We saw we thought it was a boat at first, going along the water. Suddenly it hit the water and bounced a couple of times and flipped over. And it just sunk – its tail went up in the air, and it sunk. It was a plane.”

This comes weeks after a 19-year-old tourist died after getting into difficulty in the waters off Camber Sands, down the coast from Rye.

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