Pilot killed in gyrocopter crash underwater for nearly 10 minutes, investigation report says

The 49-year-old Dutch pilot, Arend van Randen, was unconscious when he was pulled from a depth of almost seven metres after the gyrocopter crashed.

A two-man gyrocopter flies along the coast off Dubai near to the Burj Al Arab hotel during last year’s World Air Games. Karim Sahib / Reuters
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DUBAI // The pilot of a gyrocopter that crashed into the sea off Dubai Marina in December was under water for almost 10 minutes before rescue teams brought him to the surface.

The 49-year-old Dutch pilot, Arend van Randen, was unconscious when he was pulled from a depth of seven metres after the light aircraft crashed.

The pilot was taking part in the World Air Games on December 9.

He did not regain consciousness and died in hospital 10 days later, said a preliminary report by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority’s air accident investigation sector.

“The search and rescue team recovered the pilot from a depth of about 20 feet,” said the report. “The pilot sustained serious injury, with a broken jaw, and was unconscious when taken from under the sea.”

The rescue team arrived at the scene 40 seconds after the crash, and the first diver was in the water 32 seconds later.

Once the pilot was pulled from the wreckage, emergency teams tried to resuscitate him for two minutes.

The pilot – who held a valid flight crew licence for microlight helicopter-gyroplanes – was wearing a life jacket and helmet and “appeared to be composed and prepared for the flight” said the report. But, it added: “It was not confirmed whether the pilot’s helmet straps were fastened for the flight.”

It also said that no abnormal blood test results were reported to investigators.

The aircraft sank six seconds after impact, the report stated, adding that the pilot’s life jacket was not inflated.

“It is not certain what immediate effect the impact with the water had on the pilot, and when he lost consciousness,” it said.

The aircraft “lost lift and height” and crashed. It was severely damaged, with the majority of the fibreglass fuselage of the plane missing.

An investigation into the crash is continuing.

Additional information may be included in a final report, which could take up to two years to be released.

“Depending on the case, the final report of an investigation can take up anywhere between three months and two years after the incident,” said Ismaeil Abdel Wahed, executive director of the Air Accident Investigation Sector.

The preliminary report stated that the investigation was to simply prevent aircraft incidents.

“It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability,” it said. The World Air Games are conducted under rules of its governing body, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and feature the world’s leading air sports competitors, according to its website.

The FAI is the world governing body for air sports and is responsible for certificating aviation and space records.

Ballooning, airships, powered flying, gliding, helicopter flight, parachuting, aerobatics and microlight flying are among the activities overseen by the FAI.