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FOCUS: Two major air crashes... nine years apart

FOCUS: Two major air crashes... nine years apart

Thursday 10 November 2022

FOCUS: Two major air crashes... nine years apart

Thursday 10 November 2022


While all eyes were on the rescue of a pair whose plane ditched into the sea this time last week, the day also marked the anniversary of another major crash-landing and the "luckiest of escapes".

Duncan Laisney and Paul Clifford were on a training flight last Thursday when the engine of their Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six suddenly lost power.

However, with Mr Laisney a former RAF Tornado pilot and Mr Clifford also an experienced pilot, the pair were able to use their skill to calmly fly the plane into the wind to slow it down before landing in the sea.

As the plane began to sink, the pair already had their lifejackets on, and were able to walk along the wing and into a liferaf, where they only had to wait for one hour before emergency rescue crews located their rescue beam.

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Pictured: An RNLI lifeboat on its way to rescue Mr Laisney and Mr Clifford - click to watch a video of the dramatic moment.

Many islanders on social media described the pair as "lucky", while others said the fact they were rescued "safe and well" was "miraculous".

What they might not realise, however, was that the rescue occurred exactly nine years to the day of another major incident which was described in similar terms at the time...

Turning back the clock...

During the evening of 3 November 2013, James Ridout, Jason Hobbs, Lynne Jennings, John Hardie, and James Ingrouille of the Guernsey-based Channel Islands Air Search were called out to help with a rescue in Jersey after two fishermen had been reported missing.

All five escaped the accident without any serious injury physically, while the two fishermen were also rescued.

The impact mentally and emotionally helped the air search crew on the night forge lifelong friendships though.

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Pictured: The aftermath of the 2013 crash. (James Ridout)

The crash landing in an area near Devils Hole left the plane - known as the Lion's Pride - a write-off but all five crew-members walked away from the wreckage.

Fuel tank issues

An investigation into the cause of the accident found an issue with the plane's fuel reserve tank.

An investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch - who will also be investigating last week's incident - revealed that the cockpit controls which select the fuel supply for the engines were set for it to run off the reserve, or tip, tanks rather than the main fuel tanks.

The report said the tip tanks were empty having not been refilled from a search the previous day, while the main fuel tanks were almost full. The AAIB found that fuel checks were too simple without any detail recorded - merely establishing that there was fuel in the tanks, rather than confirming how much was present. 

A "double storm miracle"

Pilot Mr Hardie, who was 65 at the time of the accident, managed to land the plane in an area near the Devils Hole on Jersey's north east coast. The plane came to a rest against a tree, with no injury to himself or the crew. 

Poor weather conditions on the night were said to have contributed to the accident.

The air search plane was 30 years old at the time of the crash and the plane was dismantled and deemed unfit for repair. A fundraising appeal launched following the accident saw a new plane brought into service.

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Pictured: The Jersey Evening Post called it a "double storm miracle" when both fishermen and all five air search crew survived the night - click to visit their online archive and learn more about what happened that night.

The new plane was commissioned in 2014 but it was not brought into service until 2019 after a number of delays to its launch.

The Channel Islands Air Search team suffered another incident in late 2021, after the new plane suffered wing damage on Jersey's airport runway. The plane struck another light aircraft while taxiing.

This meant the CIAS was out of action until spring this year when it returned to service.

"Lifelong friends"

All of the CIAS crew still keep in touch today - and make sure to meet up on 3 November each year to mark the fateful day.

Reflecting on the ninth anniversary of what he termed the "luckiest of escapes", Mr Ridout said that the CIAS team are now "lifelong friends" and never forget to mark 3 November.

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Pictured: Mr Ridout posted about the ninth anniversary on Facebook.

"We still meet every year for a beer or two to celebrate the fact we all walked away," he said.

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