(Oct. 25) - A British pilot who apparently drowned after his plane crashed into the Caribbean Sea is being hailed a hero for saving the lives of all nine passengers aboard, British news outlets reported Sunday.
An engine failure forced Robert Mansell, 32, to ditch his plane off the Caribbean island of Bonaire last Wednesday, Sky News reported.
After he successfully landed the Britten-Norman Islander in the water, all nine passengers were able to escape the aircraft. But Mansell reportedly remained strapped in the pilot's seat as it sank into the ocean. The passengers were later picked up by a passing cargo ship.
"He's a hero," Simon Janzen, who worked with Mansell at the flight company Divi Divi Air, told the Telegraph. "All the passengers survived and he is the only one missing. If he wasn't a good pilot, he couldn't have ditched it so everyone could be saved."
One passenger said Mansell had apparently been knocked unconscious by the impact of the crash. The passenger said he tried to get the pilot out but was forced to forgo the effort as the plane went underwater, news reports said.
Officials on Sunday released Mansell's mayday call to air traffic controllers in which the pilot requested a "priority landing" moments before the crash, the Sun newspaper reported. The dramatic tape ends, "I've lost one of my engines. So long."
Mansell's body has not been recovered.