The search for a British pilot whose light aircraft crashed into the English Channel has been called off, the coastguard said.
A French helicopter found the wreckage before rescue efforts were suspended last night, but there was no sign of the pilot. The search, which involved both British and French emergency services, was expected to resume at first light on Monday morning. However the Dover Coastguard told the BBC a decision had been made to call it off.
A spokesman said: “Having taken the advice of the RAF as well as the French rescue authorities, we have decided that we won't be resuming the search.”
The American-registered single-engine plane had been scheduled to travel from Blackbushe Airport in Hampshire to Le Touquet in France, but the alarm was raised when it failed to arrive.
The light aircraft was believed to have crashed at around 2.30pm on Sunday afternoon, about 15 miles off the coast at Dungeness, Kent. With the position of the crash being just four miles inside English waters, UK services led the rescue effort.
The search involved French and British helicopters, the Dungeness RNLI lifeboat, and three French vessels, but they were unable to find the pilot.
Jo Groenenberg, a spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “There has been a very extensive search for the pilot. I’m afraid that search has now been terminated and they haven’t been found.
"No more is known about the plane or the pilot, and that will be investigated. He or she is now being treated as a missing person, and the matter will be handed over to the police.”
An Air Accidents Investigation Branch spokesman said: “The AAIB have deployed a team to collect evidence and begin an initial investigation.
”The position of the aircraft will determine if the full investigation will be led by the AAIB or the French authorities.“