A man and an eight-year-old girl were killed this afternoon when a two-seater plane crashed into a crowded beach on the popular Costa da Caparica, outside Lisbon.
Maritime police have questioned the pilot and other passenger, but everything points to a ‘training flight’ having gone disastrously wrong.
Early reports suggested the pilot was the one being trained.
Confirmation will come with time, but the upshot of this tragedy is that two beachgoers enjoying time by the sea lost their lives. Neither appear to have been related.
TVI24 explains that the plane first hit the 56-year-old man with one of its wheels, and then went on to hit the child.
No other victims were registered other than a grandmother who hurt her shoulder rolling over her granddaughter in a bid to protect her.
The plane’s ‘instructor and pupil’ were both unharmed.
They have been heard by authorities and released to appear before magistrates tomorrow for the first official interrogation.
Reports say the investigation will be focused on the hypothesis of negligent homicide.
Indeed, TVI24 explains that a sea-landing would have been the course of action in such an emergency, bearing in mind the beach was packed with people.
Álvaro Neves, attached to the European Aviation Safety Agency told Lusa that “what one should do is get out of the way (of people) by going into the sea”, adding that there are various other procedures, like opening the doors of the aircraft before impact.
Neves admitted that the “panic of the pilot” could have been such that he made for the beach “where landing is easier”.
Diário de Notícias has added that “some people who saw the emergency landing were very angry and tried to attack the crew, leading to the intervention of Maritime Police”.
According to TVI24, the Cessna 152 was on loan from Torres Vedras Aeroclube to the Aerocondor Aviation School, “also known as G-Air from Ponte de Sor” – the flying school that hit the headlines last year after one of its pupils, the son of the Iraqi ambassador, was involved in a hideous attack on a 15-year-old schoolboy (click here).
The plane set off from Cascais and was headed for Évora.
The official page of Portugal’s Civil Protection service says 32 people attended the scene with 14 vehicles. Emergency firefighters and VMER reanimation teams were backed by Maritime Police and PJ inspectors. A psychologist was also present “to help family members of the victims”.
The plane is now being inspected by experts to verify what exactly went wrong, as DN reports that its owners, the Torres Vedras Aeroclube, have stressed that the plane was in perfect mechanical order, while its operation was “the total responsibility of G-Air”.
News of the disaster has quickly spread to international media, with the BBC repeating an account given to Reuters in which a “young eye witness” talked of people running away as the plane made its approach, and of finding it “weird” that the pilot had landed on the beach.
DN too has carried eye witness reports describing how beachgoers “ran to the plane and wanted to hit the pilot”.
A full report on this tragedy will come tomorrow.
UPDATED REPORT PUBLISHED IN OUR PAPER EDITION:
A man and an eight-year-old girl were killed when a two-seater plane made an emergency landing on a crowded beach on the popular Costa da Caparica, outside Lisbon, last Wednesday afternoon (August 2).
Beachgoers looked on in horror as the Cessna 152 ‘came out of nowhere’ – eerily silent due to the fact that its engine had failed.
Amateur film footage shows people holding up hands in horror as the plane came down on S. Rafael beach, first hitting reserve Air Force sergeant José Lima as he lay sunbathing, and then eight year old Sofia António as she tried to get away.
Sofia’s distraught father had already seen the oncoming plane, and was busy trying to get all the children he was with to safety.
He realised his eldest daughter was still behind, but thought she was keeping up. When he saw she wasn’t, he went back to get her, and witnessed the moment the plane hit her head.
“ I knew straight away she was dead”, he told TVI24.
In shock, Paulo António was one of a number of people who then approached the flyers in outrage as they emerged from the stationary plane.
Fury centred on why the pilot had made the decision to land on a packed beach when he could have chosen the open water.
As Sofia’s father told television cameras, everything pointed to the pilot “thinking of saving his own skin, rather than the safety of others”.
Since then, media reports have stressed that “experienced pilot” Carlos Conde de Almeida has told prosecutors that landing on water would almost certainly have killed him and his passenger.
For now, the two men are cited for negligent homicide, and it remains to be seen what level of negligence is determined.
Both have been released on bail, and reports suggest the ‘passenger’, Conde de Almeida’s pupil, could end up being discharged altogether.
The men had set out from nearby Tires airport in Cascais on a training flight to Évora.
According to the plane’s owners, flying school G-Air, the Cessna was in perfect condition, and there is no immediate explanation for why its engine failed.
Público however has alluded to poor conditions for planes leaving Tires due to the fact that they have to fly low in order not to interfere with commercial flights in and out of the capital.
G-Air vice president Nelson Ferreira told the paper that the flight height stipulation of 300 metres “reduces the reaction time of pilots in case of accident”.
Only four months ago another small plane leaving Tires ran into difficulties, landing at the back of a Lidl supermarket, before exploding and killing everyone onboard, as well as a delivery truck driver.