Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 18:36 UK

Praise for aircraft crash helpers

Wreckage of aircraft near Matts Hill Road
Air accident investigators have been informed of the crash

Residents who put themselves at risk to extinguish a blaze in a light aircraft that crashed near their home have been praised by firefighters.

The only occupant of the bi-plane suffered serious burns when it came down at the edge of an orchard near Matts Hill Road, Rainham, on Saturday.

The pilot, who had suffered serious burns but was still conscious, was cut from the wreckage by firefighters.

He was taken to Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, by air ambulance.

Kent Police said he remains in a critical condition.

The 52-year-old pilot, who has not been named, took off from Rochester Airport at about 1500 BST.

The aircraft had lost its wings and was smouldering by the time Kent Fire and Rescue Service arrived.

They gave this fellow every chance by extinguishing the bulk of the fire
David Devine

Crew manager David Devine, from Medway fire station, said the pilot may have been trying to crash land in the nearby Matts Hill airfield.

He said: "The worst of the fire had been extinguished by the residents of a house 40 yards away.

"They did a fantastic job. They gave this fellow every chance by extinguishing the bulk of the fire with fire extinguishers and pots and pans of water.

"It would have been very easy for them to just stand back and worry about the tank exploding."

Mr Devine said that because the area was so remote the aircraft would have kept burning if it had not crashed so close to the house.

The residents said they did not want to comment on the incident.

Air accident investigators were informed and have attended the scene.




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