Pilot of Czech jet fighter killed in crash at air show

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The Independent Online

A jet pilot was killed yesterday after he failed to pull his fighter out of a turn and crashed into the sea during an aerobatic display.

A jet pilot was killed yesterday after he failed to pull his fighter out of a turn and crashed into the sea during an aerobatic display.

Thousands of visitors to the four-day free Airborne 2000 air show at Eastbourne, East Sussex, watched the plane, piloted by Chris Hudson, hit the sea 800 yards from the beach.

Andrew Bailey, 21, from Langney, East Sussex, said: "I watched it pull out of a loop and just fall from the sky. There was smoke and debris everywhere as it hit the water. The emergency crews were there straight away and people were looking for the pilot."

The Czech military plane, an L29 Delfin, disintegrated when it crashed into the waves at 2.05pm. A lifeboatman, Gary Mead, 29, who recovered the body of Mr Hudson, said it was a miracle that nobody else was killed.

"It was 200 or 300 yards from three of the safety boats which were patrolling the area, and we are all lucky to be alive," said Mr Mead.

Two swimmers were taken to hospital after swallowing jet fuel.

The advanced twin-seat trainer jet had been privately hired. It was designed and built in the Czech Republic in 1957, and was capable of 509mph.

A spokesman for Eastbourne council said: "We are deeply distressed for the family that this accident should have happened to one of the brave pilots who spent his life entertaining so many people.

"The pilot was performing a diving aileron roll at the time. We are appealing for people who may have video footage of the crash to contact Eastbourne police immediately."

Flying displays were cancelled for the rest of the afternoon, but are expected to resume today. A book of condolences has been set up at the lifeguard station on Eastbourne seafront.

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