The mother of the former RAF Tornado pilot and fast-jet instructor rescued after his plane ditched into the sea off Jersey's south-east coast yesterday has shared her pride over how her son handled the emergency situation.
Duncan Laisney and Paul Clifford, who were both found "safe and well" after spending around an hour at sea on a liferaft, reported to Air Traffic Control that their Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six was going down around 14:00 on Thursday.
The plane crash-landed in the sea about four miles south-east of Violet Buoy, which lies just offshore of Seymour Tower off the south-east corner of the island.
All three RNLI lifeboats, Ports of Jersey’s pilot boat ‘Rival’, Channel Islands Air Search, and a French rescue helicopter 'Dragon 50' were sent to the area, with Jersey Coastguard coordinating the search.
The men managed to move from their plane to a liferaft, where they remained for an hour in the open air.
Pictured: The RNLI team that assisted with the search. (Dave Ferguson)
They were helped onto a smaller inshore lifeboat, then transferred to the larger all-weather boat.
Mr Laisney was an RAF Tornado pilot and fast-jet instructor who is now a long-haul captain. Born and bred in St. Ouen, he attended Les Quennevais School and Hautlieu before going to university in Chester and joining the Royal Air Force in 1998. When not on long-haul duties, he is also an instructor with the Jersey Aero Club.
Mr Laisney’s mother Audrey credited his background for his sense of calm during and after the crisis.
“I only found out after he was back safely ashore but it has still been a big shock," she told Express this morning.
"I spoke to him this morning on the phone and he played it down, which is normal for Duncan. I think his RAF training definitely helped. I haven’t caught up with him properly yet but I’m obviously very happy that he’s safe and proud that he dealt so calmly with a dangerous situation.”
Coastguard Duty Officer Phil Le Neveu said it was "amazing" that the Mr Laisney and Mr Clifford remained so calm as they waited to be rescued, despite facing a "two-and-a-half metre swell and winds building to force seven".
Mr Clifford and Mr Laisney were full of praise for the rescue teams, with the latter describing the RNLI as "exceptional".
Pictured: The rescue team debriefing with the Harbourmaster, Captain Bill Sadler.
Mr Clifford described feeling a "great sense of relief" as the pair saw the lifeboat approach.
Jersey Coastguard shared its "sincere thanks to all of the crews who braved gale force conditions to assist the airmen" in a post on Facebook, which has been liked and shared by hundreds of islanders, many of whom echoed the sentiment.
"Thanks to the fast response by the crews of all the assets, the use of Drift Modelling Software and the homing signal from the Personal Locator Beacon, the life raft was located very quickly. Both of the casualties were returned safe and well to St Helier on board the St. Helier all-weather life boat," they said.
"Your selfless actions to respond today undoubtedly saved two lives."
Ports of Jersey confirmed to Express that the accident has now been referred to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
Pictured top: Paul Clifford (left) and Duncan Laisney after the rescue. (Rob Currie)
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