A MICROLIGHT pilot escaped without serious injury after his plane crashed into the Cleddau River last night.
The lightweight plane crashed into the Haven at around 5.30pm, narrowly avoiding overhead power lines.
Emergency services launched a rapid response after receiving a call from Jamie Boha, who saw the incident unfold.
“He saw the microlight hit the water and flip over at least once as it went in,” said Alastair Pollard, of Rudders Boatyard in Burton.
“Miraculously the pilot still looked to be afloat, although by now there was no sign of the microlight.”
As Angle lifeboat and range safety vessel Smit Merrion - based in Neyland – were dispatched by the coastguard, Mr Pollard also went out on his inflatable rib to see if he could help.
Two men who had been fishing from their boat also made their way to the area.
“I reached the pilot just as he was pulling himself out the water on the other side of the Milford Haven waterway opposite our boatyard and moorings,” said Mr Pollard.
“Although clearly shaken from the impact, the pilot had the wherewithal to pull one of his gloves off after he went down in order to release his buckle and swim free.
“The microlight had then started to sink so the pilot sensibly ditched his aircraft and helmet and made a swim for the shore, albeit in a heavy flying suit with lots of warm but heavy clothing underneath.
“Fortunately the pilot was clearly a competent swimmer and although he had probably been in the water and swimming for the shore in these cold tidal winter waters for about 15 minutes, he had made it.
“He was just clambering ashore as I reached him, slightly hypothermic and soaked to the skin, but still in good humour and pleased to be alive.
“It seems the setting sun had blinded him and he had desperately wanted to avoid the power lines.”
The pilot was taken back to the boatyard and given a hot shower, and Mr Pollard lent him some dry clothes.
Coastguard medics, police, ambulance and relatives arrived by road, and the pilot was then taken to hospital for further checks.
Mr Pollard said the response from emergency services was “truly reassuring”.
“I have to say all credit has to go to our Coastguard, Police, RNLI and Port Authority services who really seem to be able to respond well in such a situation,” he said.
“I was fortunate enough to have been alerted by various friends and customers and be right on the spot when all this happened but just as I was bringing the pilot back to warm him up at our place, the coastguard/range vessel arrived, closely followed by a leisure boat that had also presumably responded to a CH16 emergency, the Police Boat and the Port Authority boat - all within literally minutes of one another.
“It was truly reassuring to know what everyone is capable of around here when we truly need them.”
Coastguard teams left the scene at around 6.50pm.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been informed of the incident.