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Parachute plane disintegrates in mid-air. Belgian pilot dead, seven injured.

A Belgian pilot said to be in his 30s was killed and seven other people were injured after parachuting off a “disintegrating plane” yesterday evening (June 19) in Ferreira do Alentejo, Beja.

The freak accident is being investigated as what caused the plane to disintegrate in mid-air is unknown.

According to Observador newspaper, three people who were aboard the plane said it started “disintegrating” shortly after take-off.

Eye witnesses on the ground also said they saw parts of the plane falling off in mid-air.

GNR police believe there may have been an “explosion” as debris was scattered over a large area and “even up in trees”.

The Pilatus PC6 aircraft, with a capacity for 10 people, belonged to Seven Air – the group that owns Aero Vip, which runs the Bragança-Portimão air link.

It took off from the Canhestros aerodrome, also run by Seven Air, for a skydiving lesson at around 7pm.

But when they noticed the plane was falling to pieces, the pilot and the seven passengers were forced to parachute off the aircraft.

An eye witness told Jornal de Notícias that the pilot’s parachute did not open.

“He had a serious injury on his head, which must have killed him,” the witness said, adding that wreckage was scattered all over the area and that all the other passengers landed far from each other.

Two Portuguese men, aged 29 and 37, were “seriously injured” and taken to Lisbon’s São José hospital. They have since been declared “clinically stable”.

Two other women were taken to Beja Hospital, while the remaining three passengers did not require hospital assistance.

According to other reports, the dead pilot was not equipped with a parachute.

Lusa adds that two engineers, from the Swiss company that manufactures the Pilatus PC6 airplane, are due to fly in to Lisbon this evening with a brief to help Portugal’s airplane accident investigation authority (GPIAA) discover the reason for the plane’s disintegration.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com