British Plane Crashes into Lake Ontario at Airshow
TORONTO (AP) _ A British warplane performing at an airshow plunged into Lake Ontario and burst apart Saturday, sending up a plume of water and debris in front of more than 10,000 horrified spectators on shore.
The seven crew members aboard all were presumed dead, a Canadian Defense Department official said.
The four-engine Royal Air Force Nimrod, flying at the Canadian National Exhibition, swooped low over the lake and was making a steep turn when it crashed about 1 1/2 miles from shore, according to spectators.
``It hit the water with a huge splash. It sort of bellyflopped,″ said Paul Loong, a witness.
Some said the plane, which was demonstrating its ability to evade heat-seeking missiles, had just dropped flares before it crashed. Others said a cargo door appeared to be open.
As the plane sank, police and military helicopters and boats raced out from shore. Divers jumped from the helicopters into the water, where pieces of the plane were floating.
The Nimrod, used for reconnaissance and marine patrols, can carry a crew of 12, but the Royal Air Force said seven people were aboard for Saturday’s flight.
Albert Yule, a spectator from Orangeville, Ontario, said the plane seemed to stagger in the middle of a maneuver.
``It turned to the left, lost its flying speed and then plunged into the lake like a bullet into a board,″ he said.
Yule said spectators began shouting, ``He’s in trouble! He’s in trouble!″
``It was flying away from shore,″ Loong said. ``The plane’s engines just stopped. It was flying rather low and I thought that they couldn’t be cutting their engines.″
Loong said the plane continued to bank and then it started falling.
The pilot appeared to turn abruptly to avoid a line of boats on the lake, said Victor Ciaccia, a retired pilot from Rochester, N.Y.
Small children stood watching with their hands over their mouths, parents gripping their shoulders, as military and police helicopters hovered over the crash site. Some witnesses said they saw objects the color of orange life jackets in the water.
Air Vice-Marshal Peter Squire, of the RAF, said it was too early to say what caused the crash. He said the crew members _ based in Finloss, Scotland _ were veterans of airshow maneuvers.
``This was an experienced crew that had performed similar demonstrations at a number of airshows this year,″ Squire said. ``We are deeply saddened by what has happened to this crew.″
It was the seventh crash since the Toronto airshow began in 1949 and the second in six years. In 1989, a member of the Canada’s military Snowbirds aerobatics team was killed when his jet hit the wing of another plane and exploded in flames.
Airshow president Don Chapman said the airshow had been suspended until an investigation into the crash is completed.