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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Helicopter pilot's escape drama
Portland Coastguard helicopter wreckage
The mangled wreckage of the coastguard helicopter
The pilot of a 4m coastguard helicopter which was written off after its engine caught fire, described how he watched it turn into a "smouldering heap" minutes after he made an emergency landing.

The Portland coastguard helicopter was forced to land at the Royal Marines' barracks in Poole, Dorset, on Monday afternoon, after it developed engine trouble.

Minutes later it was a burnt-out wreck.

Captain Simon Hoare said he was lucky to be alive.

'Gearbox ablaze'

He told BBC Radio Solent: "We were very fortunate to be where we were and to have spotted the Royal Marines' sports pitch.

"We got out of the aircraft to see it ablaze around the gearbox area.

Captain Simon Hoare
Captain Hoare: "very fortunate"

"We landed at 1617 BST and it was a smouldering heap 10 minutes later.

"So it burnt to the ground pretty quickly but it didn't hinder our getting out at all."

The rescue crew was out searching for a man believed to have fallen out of his dinghy in Poole Harbour when Mr Hoare reported engine difficulties.

The helicopter was a quarter of a mile out to sea when it had to turn back.

Mr Hoare described how, first one engine caught fire and then the hydraulic system failed, and then the second engine caught fire as they made an emergency landing.

Accident investigation

A Dorset police helicopter was scrambled to continue the search for the missing man.

The helicopter was one of eight used by the coastguard service.

The other seven will remain in operation while the investigation into the accident continues.

A spokesman for Bristow helicopters, which leases the specially-equipped helicopters, said: "This has never happened before.

"It has an excellent safety record.

"It's a hugely reliable aircraft which is why they are used for search and rescue operations and they are regularly overhauled and maintained."


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See also:

15 Jul 02 | England
17 Jun 02 | Scotland
31 May 02 | Americas
25 May 02 | Scotland
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