Video: Drama as pilot and passenger crash-land their plane into lough and swim to safety
Published 16/11/2013 | 02:00
TWO "lucky men" escaped death on Lough Erne after a highly skilled pilot saved the lives of himself and a passenger by successfully crash landing on to the water.
The decision to land on the lough rather than the ground, where chances of survival are much lower, was expertly carried out, resulting in no injuries for the two men.
The families of Dublin photographers Eoin Smith and Karol Konwalski are said to be "over the moon at the miraculous escape".
The engines on the light aircraft Cessna, which was travelling from Shannon to the St Angelo airport in Enniskillen, began to fail due to low oil pressure.
At around 4.30pm, Shannon Air Traffic Control advised Belfast Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre the two people on board were about to "ditch in the Lough Erne".
After being unable to find a field large enough to land on, the pilot decided the water had the biggest surface area to perform the complex landing, near Derryline, before swimming to the shore at Derryvore, near Teemore.
By the time the two men made the distance to land and hauled themselves out of the cold waters, the plane had started to sink. It's believed that a member of the public from a local farmhouse rushed to the scene to help the shaken men.
The pair were treated for shock but were otherwise safe and well.
Former chief pilot at Lakeland Seaplanes Tours, based in Co Fermanagh, said that despite intense training, this brave landing was still "very difficult".
"The reality is you could either destroy the plane or tip it over.
"Then you have the added disorientation and a further hectic crisis," said Steve Powell.
"You would want to try and be quite close to the shore as possible to get out of the water as quickly as possible and avoid shock. There's also the risk the plane could catch fire."
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Enniskillen District Commander Robbie Bryson said he had never seen anything like the emergency operation.
"It's definitely a first. It's thanks to the skill of the pilot no one was hurt."
Mr Bryson said five fire appliances, two ambulances, police boat, an RNLI boat and a rapid response team were initially mobilised to attend the scene.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Barry Doherty said the men were "lucky to be alive".
The two were pictured afterwards giving the thumbs-up to their rescuers.