THE pilot killed when his light aircraft crashed into the North Sea will now not be named until tomorrow, police have said.

His body was found close to the wreckage of the two-seater Piper 38 plane by divers at 11.45am yesterday.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said this morning that he is a middle-aged man from the Ripon area.

Several close family members have yet to be informed of his death, so his identity is not being released until tomorrow.

Efforts to recover the wreckage of the plane from the sea are still ongoing.

The salvage operation is being co-ordinated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch supported by the coastguard and the RNLI.

The plane was returning to Durham Tees Valley Airport near Darlington when it crashed off Robin Hood's Bay, near Whitby at 4.20pm on Friday.

A rescue operation on Friday night located the wreckage, but the search for the pilot was called off because of fading light.

Coastguards, police officers, an underwater search team from West Yorkshire Police, a police heicopter and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch returned to the scene yesterday morning.

After the body of a man was found by the underwater search team, a police helicopter landed on nearby rocks, and airlifted him to the top of the cliffs.

He was then taken to Scarborough Hospital by an undertaker.


The nature of the flight and the cause of the crash are not yet known.

Eyewitnesses spoke of seeing the plane circle around cliffs before hitting the water with great force.

A spokesman for Humber Coastguard said: "Several 999 calls were made by members of the public, who reported seeing a light aircraft plummeting and crashing into the sea, close inshore, at Robin Hood's Bay.

"At 5.20pm, debris was found in the area that was being searched.

"Sonar equipment from the lifeboats sounded out a large object, in about seven metres of water.

"Debris, including oil and pieces of carpet, was also found in the area.

"It is a grim discovery.

"The aircraft, a Piper 38, with one person on board, made a mayday call.

"It had taken off from Teesside, and was on its way back there when it went down."

The site of the crash was marked with a buoy by the RNLI. Police and RAF helicopters, which had been drafted in from RAF Boulmer, in Northumberland, and RAF Leconfield, in East Yorkshire, were stood down shortly after 6pm, as the light began to fade.

Eyewitness Peter Smith, a local resident, was in the Bay Hotel, looking out to sea, at the time of the crash.

He said: "We saw the whole thing.

"The plane came round the headland at a fairly low altitude.

"It was very close to the cliffs, and then all of a sudden there was a massive splash as it hit the water."

Mr Smith stood and watched the search operation unfold.

He said: "The plane hit the water with great force.

"It very sad, of course."

Mr Smith praised the speed at which the rescue operation was mounted.

He said: "The plane went down at about 4.15pm, and the lifeboats and helicopters were all on the scene very quickly.

"They searched and searched until it was dark."

Stan Broadhead, who works at the Boggle Hole youth hostel, in the bay, said: "My manager is a coastguard volunteer, and was called away to help.

"I did not see the plane crash myself, but I saw a lot of commotion in the water afterwards.

"There was two lifeboats, and what looked like a life raft out there as well.

"It looked like there was a couple of people in the raft, but I could not be sure.

"A Sea King helicopter was hovering quite low over the bay."

Mr Broadhead said that, apart from the emergency services on the scene, he saw no obvious signs of a plane crash.

He said: "There was no loud bang, or flames, and I could not see any wreckage in the water."

Roy Weatherill, Whitby RNLI Lifeboat operations manager, said: "A number of people reported seeing the plane crash into the sea.

"As weather conditions were good, finding the site didn't take very long."