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Saturday, 18 May, 2002, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Tornado crew have injury tests
Tornado fighter bomber
The Tornado aircraft was from RAF Marham
An RAF pilot and navigator are undergoing medical tests on Saturday after ejecting from their Tornado.

They were rescued after the fighter-bomber plunged into the Humber estuary near Brough, east Yorkshire, on Friday.

The aircraft wreckage was being recovered on Saturday.

The two were taken initially to Lincoln County Hospital, but have been transferred to the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham.

Crew praised

They are being checked for possible spinal injuries, although they are believed to be in reasonable health with no serious injuries.

An eyewitness who saw the crash praised the crew for ditching the plane away from built-up areas.

Chris O'Connell, who saw the incident, said: "It looked as though the pilot was making an attempt to get it into the water.

Crew member being unloaded from ambulance
The crew members were taken to Lincoln Hospital

"If that is what the pilot was doing then they really are heroes."

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said the plane was carrying dummy warheads.

Environment Agency staff were on site, to check the plane's fuel load did not cause a problem.

Police divers have been searching for debris from the crash impact.

Humberside Police has appealed to local people to report any debris washed up on the riverbank.

No wreckage from the plane is believed to have fallen on land.

Builder Malcolm Burke said he was working at his home in Welton, near Brough, when he heard a loud bang.

He said: "It heard it (the plane) go over. Then I heard the bang.

"I turned round and saw the pilot and navigator coming down with parachutes. You see the figures hanging from the parachutes.

"We live about a mile away from the river and I didn't see the plane hit the water because it was obscured by trees."

Two dinghies

Mr Burke said he believed the village was on a regular flight path and it was normal to have three or four planes flying over every day.

He said it seemed the pilot may have deliberately planned to ditch his aircraft in the river, and avoid the villages on either side.

Eyewitness Chris O'Connell
Mr O'Connell saw the plane come down

The Humberside Police helicopter was scrambled, and the local coastguard and two RAF rescue helicopters, from bases at Leconfield and Wattisham, were called to the scene.

The Tornado, on a training flight from RAF Marham, Norfolk, came down close to a disused airfield.

The crew was located by helicopter just off the north coast of the river.

A police spokesman said: "The helicopter traced two dinghies. One had one of the casualties in it.

'Drifting in river'

"The other wasn't in his dingy. He was drifting off down the river. Air sea rescue then attended. They winched the man in the dingy out of the water.

"Humber Rescue then picked up the gentleman who was drifting down the river and he was passed on to the air sea rescue as well."

The GR4 Tornado came into service in 1989 has a 13.9 metre wingspan and is 16.7 metres in length.

It has a crew of two, pilot and navigator, who sit in tandem, one in front of another.

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RAF spokesman Michael Mulford
"The pilot and the navigator have been rescued"

Click here to go to Humber
See also:

17 May 02 | England
Routine flight for Tornado
11 Mar 02 | Scotland
Pilots praised over Tornado crash
23 Feb 00 | UK
1bn jets 'unfit for combat'
18 Nov 99 | Scotland
Nuclear air ban extension ruled out
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