Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 18:52 UK

Pilot ejects as Harrier crashes

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There are no civilian casualties

A Royal Navy pilot managed to eject to safety as a jet crashed in a field near a village in Rutland.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokeswoman said the Harrier crashed north-east of RAF Cottesmore at about 1350 BST.

She said the pilot ejected and came down using a parachute and was "alive and conscious". He is receiving treatment in hospital.

Residents said the crash happened about 200yds (180m) from Ashwell. No civilian casualties were reported.

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A safety cordon has been put in place around the crash site.

The pilot was taken to Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre by air ambulance. His injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

Phil Morris, spokesman for East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: "We attended the incident along with the air ambulance. There was one casualty and that was the pilot.

"He was fully conscious and alert, but had suspected spinal injuries which would be consistent with being ejected from a plane.

"That is not to say that he definitely had spinal injuries. That's what the hospital will be looking into."

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service confirmed it was called to the crash near Ashwell and 10 appliances were deployed.

The aircraft was returning from a training exercise in Norfolk ahead of a four-month deployment in Afghanistan.

All flying has been suspended at the airbase while investigations are carried out.

Deputy Force Commander Ade Orchard, who was flying at the time of the incident, said: "His wing man who was airborne with him in another aircraft would have been helping him out all the way along.

"Shortly afterwards I witnessed a flash from the vicinity of the lead aircraft, approximately 10 seconds after that a large fireball."

'Lucky escape'

Vic Harrison, 73, who saw the aircraft come down, said: "I thought he didn't stand a chance, but I looked up and saw the parachute of the pilot.

"I really thought he had hit the houses. It was a narrow miss - it must have been just 400 yards from our house.

"It has been an exceptionally lucky escape."

Craig Shepherd, 25, who was carrying out building work about half a mile (800m) from the crash site, said: "They [Harriers] had been flying over about seven or eight times during the day," he said.

"We were working and heard a bang, looked up and saw the guy get out of the plane with a parachute and then just watched the plane come down to the ground and crash into a field.

"It looked like the rear of the plane was on fire. We went over to the crash site and within about five minutes the fire engines arrived."

An MOD spokesman said the pilot's next of kin had been informed.


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