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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Air show Harrier crashes into sea
Harrier crash
Pilot ejects seconds before the RAF Harrier crashes
An RAF Harrier jet performing at an air show has crashed into the sea off the Suffolk coast.

The accident happened in front of thousands of holidaymakers at the Lowestoft Air Show. The pilot ejected shortly after the engine failed.

The Harrier was coming to the end of its display - when it bows to the crowd, before flying off.

A spokesman for the organisers says at about fifty feet, there was apparently engine failure and the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Tony Cann, ejected. The Lowestoft lifeboat brought him ashore.

Harrier crash
Flight Lieutenant Tony Cann parachutes to safety
Flight Lieutenant Cann, who is based at RAF Wittering, is understood to be well and crowds applauded him as he waved from a helicopter which was taking him to the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston for examination.

A BBC reporter at the scene said the aircraft was flying about 50ft above the water when there was a loud explosion.

"The Harrier, one of the most popular parts of the show, was facing the crowd about 50ft from the edge of the sand," said Guy Campbell.

"It was about to do a favourite manoeuvre with the crowds - a bow - when there seemed to be some kind of huge engine loss.

"The jet began to fall towards the sea then there was an explosion as the hood of the cockpit blew off and we saw the pilot fly about 50ft into the air."

No-one in the crowd was injured.

'Good safety record'

Military aircraft expert Nick Cook, of Jane's Defence Weekly, said that the 35m GR7 Harrier has had a "pretty good safety record".

"But if when it 'takes a bow' it gets engine failure then there is nothing to do but eject because it is not going forward at speed," he said.

Mr Cook said British air shows had a very high safety record and disasters such as last months tragedy in the Ukraine, where more than 80 spectators were killed, should not occur.

"In Britain we have very strict rules about air shows and aircraft have to be a minimum of 400 metres from crowds," he said.

More than 400,000 visitors had been expected to watch the second day of the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival on Friday.

Attractions at the annual event included the Red Arrows and other display teams including the Royal Jordanian Falcons.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Guy Campbell
"At no point was the crowd in danger"
Click here for the latest pictures
from the Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival

Click here to go to BBC Suffolk
See also:

14 May 02 | Wales
24 Aug 00 | UK
14 Jul 99 | UK
19 Dec 98 | UK
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