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Eyewitness Richard Stofer
"There was a crowd of several thousand and they were horrified."
 real 28k

Saturday, 19 August, 2000, 22:07 GMT 23:07 UK
Airshow crash: No wreckage found
Location map
Air accident investigators are examining the scene
Police divers have failed to find the wreckage of a two-seater jet aircraft which crashed into the sea during an air show, killing the pilot.

Ten policemen tried to find the remains of the L29 Delfin jet, which was piloted by former Red Arrows pilot Ted Girdler, 62, from Kent.

He was flying the plane 800m off the coast at Eastbourne during the Airbourne 2000 show when it crashed at 1420 BST on Friday.

One of Mr Girdler's sons was among the thousands of horrified onlookers who witnessed the accident.

Mr Girdler's body was recovered from the sea on Friday.

Pilot Ted Girdler
Ted Girdler: Body was found in sea
Acting Sgt Mark Cannadine, who led Saturday's search, said there had not been no sign of any wreckage.

"It seems that the impact was so catastrophic that there may be no large sections of the plane left," he said.

"But we still hope to be able to salvage parts of the cockpit and wings."

The divers could only search for two hours because the Airbourne 2000 air show resumed flying displays over the sea.

"We were unable to work below the air show because of public safety," Sgt Cannadine said.

Video help

"The good news is we were able to pinpoint where the wreckage may be but we were working against a strong tide."

The search will resume on Monday morning.

Sussex police and the Air Accident Investigation Branch think it will be a long time before they find out why Mr Girdler was unable to pull up during what was thought to be a low-risk diving roll.

Snr Insp Andrew Robinson, of the Air Accident Investigation Bureau, said they had received a number of video tapes from members of the public.

He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him in the display world

Jim Maitland, event co-ordinator
"We have been swamped by people who have given the police video footage of the accident which is important in the absence of flight data stored in a black box recorder," he said.

Event display co-ordinator Jim Maitland said Mr Girdler was very highly thought of.

"He was very experienced and was responsible for checking out the pilots on this particular aircraft.

"He will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him in the display world."

No mayday

Mr Girdler did not have a chance to eject from the 1960s built L-29 Delfin jet trainer and no mayday call was made.

Lifeboatman Gary Mead, who recovered the pilot's body from the water, said it was a miracle that no-one 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," he said.

"He was coming in at probably a 45 degree angle and tried to pull up but belly-flopped into the sea. He just didn't have enough space."

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