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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 21:54 GMT 22:54 UK
RAF plane crashes near rural pub
The wreckage of a crashed RAF Harrier GR9 jump jet on the A4260
The RAF pilot ejected safely moments before his plane crashed
An RAF plane has crashed near a pub and main road in Oxfordshire - exploding only yards away from a passing car.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the plane crashed at about 1700 BST, but said the pilot ejected safely.

RAF Harrier GR9, from RAF Cottesmore in Rutland, came down near Sturdy's Castle Pub in Tackley near Kidlington.

The blast from the explosion caused a car to spin out of control and the driver was showered with glass as he fled.

The pilot ejected safely and has been taken to an Oxford hospital by a local police helicopter
Air Tattoo spokeswoman

Thames Valley police said the pilot, who plunged into a nearby field, had been treated for minor injuries at the scene by paramedics.

The aeroplane, which was flying to RAF Fairford, was due to go on display at the Royal International Air Tattoo at the Gloucestershire airfield over the weekend.

An Air Tattoo spokeswoman said: "We can confirm an RAF Harrier GR9 inbound to be on static display at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford has crashed.

"The pilot ejected safely and has been taken to an Oxford hospital by a local police helicopter. At this time we are unaware of any other casualties."

Picture courtesy of BBC News website reader Matt Gray
BBC News website reader Matt Gray saw the plane near Oxford Airport

Graham Billinge, 58, from Langley in the New Forest, said he had been attending a training course at the pub when the crash happened.

"The pilot could not have left it a minute too late. I don't know how he missed the hotel and garage, but it was very, very close.

"I think he must have left it right up until the last minute and I think he deserves some praise for that because it could have been catastrophic."

Witnesses at the scene said that as they ran towards the explosion a man who told them he was an off duty police officer staggered up the road towards them.

The policeman's Ford Escort was spun 360 degrees by the force of the blast.

'Plume of smoke'

The MoD said: "The cause of the crash will be the subject of an investigation in due course."

The police have closed the A4260 in both directions while emergency services attend the scene.

Eyewitness Matt Gray told the BBC News Website: "It seems the aircraft did a fly-by of Oxford Airport first before circling around - possibly to join the traffic pattern for landing.

"Being a keen plane spotter I went for the camera to get a nice shot of the aircraft landing, but to my horror I turned around to see a plume of black smoke."




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