A GROUP of skydivers escaped unhurt when an aircraft nose-dived from 500 feet and crash-landed in an Oxfordshire field after both engines stopped.
One of them, Simon Ward, told how skilful flying by the Russian pilot, Sergey Souskin, 40, saved the lives of the 19 people aboard the Russian Antolof AN28.
He said: 'The first we knew that there was anything wrong was when the plane reached 500ft and began to level out of its climb. The pilot took off the flaps to give us a smoother climb and suddenly both engines stopped. He immediately turned the plane 90 degrees, found a cornfield and went into a steep dive.
'A fraction of a second before we hit the field, the pilot pulled the nose straight up in a testbook manoeuvre and the plane hit the ground on its belly. He did a bloody brilliant job. There was a hell of a bang as we hit the ground and as it slid along, the wings buckled and folded.'
The 17 skydivers, members of the Royal Air Force Sports Association Parachute Club, had just taken off from Weston on the Green airfield near Bicester.
Police, ambulancemen and fire crews raced to the cornfield but by the time they reached the wreckage all 19 survivors had walked from the field back to the parachute clubhouse. Six were treated for shock.
A member of the Marks and Spencer family was among seven people who survived a helicopter crash. Rebecca Sieff, 26, who was unhurt, and a group of friends had chartered the helicopter and were returning to Oxford from a visit to Caernarfon in north Wales, when it ploughed into a field at Noke, Oxfordshire. Three people suffered back injuries.