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French pilot found in Spain days after crash

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French pilot found in Spain days after crash
A French pilot had a miraculous escape after he was found dangling from a tree, where he had been for seven days after his plane crashed. Photo: Informatique
10:48 CEST+02:00
A French pilot who was feared dead in a plane crash has had a miraculous escape after he was found lying on a footpath by a hiker in Spain. The man, aged in his 60s, had lain there for three days hoping someone would pass by.

Retired Bernard Mengin, aged in his 60s, set off in his private monoplane from an airfield in the Aude department of south west France on Monday.

But concerns were soon raised after he disappeared off the map in his monoplane. A witness appeal was immediately launched and a huge search effort was set up to try to find him.

Seven French and Spanish helicopters were dispatched at various times to look for Mengin but as the hours and days went by, hopes began to fade that he would be found safe and well.

But then he got lucky, when a hiker spotted him on Thursday lying on a path among the trees on the slopes of the Spanish Pyrenees.

Mengin had ejected the plane in his parachute after admitting he made a mistake while flying. Contrary to earlier reports the pilot did not spend three days hanging from a tree in his parachute, but managed to crawl to a nearby hiking trial, where he hoped someone would pass by.

"I spent three days without being able to move much. I could not walk. During three days, I lived just lying on the ground, " he told Europe1 radio

According to Spanish rescuers the pilot hardly had the strength to talk and had wounds to his chest.

Mengin was airlifted to hospital where his condition was initially described as serious but not life threatening.

But his relieved wife, who rushed to the hospital in the Spanish town of Lérida later said: “He’s fine, that’s the main thing”.

It is not clear why Mengin was forced to eject from his aircraft.

The head of the French rescue service told Europe1 radio how lucky the pilot had been.

“He was a needle in a haystack. The search area was incredibly vast. We had to cover half the Pyrenees so our chances were slim,” said David Segheto.

“But this is the reward for not giving up and for not losing hope too quickly,” he added.

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