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Sailor cheated death in copter sea plunge.

Byline: Daily Post Correspondent

A ROYAL Navy sailor from Merseyside yesterday told an inquest how he cheated death by swimming out of a sunken helicopter after it nosedived 400ft into the sea,killing its two pilots.

Petty Officer Paul Hanson, 39, from St Helens, was only saved when a door of the Lynx helicopter ripped off on impact, allowing him to swim to the surface as the craft started to sink.

Lieutenant Rod Skidmore, 39, and Lieutenant Jenny Lewis, 25, suffered massive injuries in the crash and were unable to free themselves from the wreckage.

After PO Hanson resurfaced, he swam over to the two helmets of his colleagues floating on the water,only to find they were empty.

The inquest heard the tragedy happened when one of the aircraft's two engines blew up as it flew back to the Portsmouth-based warship HMS Richmond from a missile-firing exercise off the eastern coast ofAmerica.

The explosion caused the helicopter to nosedive 400ft into the Atlantic Ocean.

The hearing was told that PO Hanson had been sat in the rear of the aircraft and was filming the training exercise 200 miles off Portsmouth,Virginia, on June 12 last year.

The Lynx helicopter had just fired a live missile at the hulk of a disused US ship when the crashhappened.

PO Hanson was rescued by a US helicopter 15 minutes after the crash and was treated for minor cuts.

But the hearing heard it wasn't until five weeks later it was found he had suffered two crushed vertebrae.

West Dorset coroner Michael Johnson recorded a verdict of accidental death on Lt Skidmore. He was unable to carry out an inquest into the death of Lt Lewis, as her body had never been found.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 26, 2003
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