Father of girl killed in Portugal plane crash slams pilot

The devastated father of an eight-year-old girl killed when a plane made a crash landing on a Portuguese beach has accused the pilot of putting his own safety before the lives of his victims.

The grieving man said the pilot should have landed the Cessna-152 light aircraft in the sea and not on the sand of Sao Joao beach near Lisbon on Wednesday afternoon.

Witnesses described how the pilot of the plane which also killed a 56-year-old man during the emergency landing, was branded a 'murderer' by horrified onlookers.  

Dozens of sunbathers ran for their lives - some into the sea - as the plane landed and skidded across the sand, where parents were playing with their children.

Police confirmed the pair, an instructor and a pupil on a flying lesson, had been arrested and were being questioned. The little girl was this morning named as Sofia.

The devastated father of an eight-year-old girl killed when a plane made a crash landing on a Portuguese beach has accused the pilot of putting his own safety before the lives of his victims

The devastated father of an eight-year-old girl killed when a plane made a crash landing on a Portuguese beach has accused the pilot of putting his own safety before the lives of his victims

Police are now questioning the two pilots aboard the plane - one of whom was having a flying lesson at the time

Police are now questioning the two pilots aboard the plane - one of whom was having a flying lesson at the time

The aircraft appeared to be in difficulty and wobbled as it skimmed low over the sunbathers, scattering them and spreading panic on the beach

The aircraft appeared to be in difficulty and wobbled as it skimmed low over the sunbathers, scattering them and spreading panic on the beach

Her furious father has vowed to make it his life's mission to make sure the pilot never flew again after he had buried his daughter.

He admitted to wanting to 'punch' the pilot after the tragedy as he recalled the moment he saw his little girl being hit.

And he appealed to the authorities to ban light aircraft from flying over beaches during an impassioned TV address.

The Portuguese national, who didn't give his name and identified his daughter only as Sofia, spoke out after interrupting a live TV report on the tragedy.

He let rip as it emerged the 'experienced' pilot, who was giving a younger man flying lessons, could face a five-year prison sentence if convicted on gross negligence manslaughter charges.

Local reports said the 56-year-old was trying to land on a secluded beach near Sao Joao after engine failure five minutes into their flight - but was unable to reach it in time.

The unnamed pilot and his pupil, both confirmed today as Portuguese, were due in court this morning after being questioned by police.

Hundreds of people were on the beach at Caparica, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Lisbon 

Hundreds of people were on the beach at Caparica, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Lisbon 

The tragedy happened at the Sao Joao beach on Portugal's Costa de Caparica coastline near the city of Setubal

The tragedy happened at the Sao Joao beach on Portugal's Costa de Caparica coastline near the city of Setubal

The judicial investigation is expected to focus on whether the pilot deliberately made a beach instead of a sea landing - putting sunbathers at unnecessary risk - or was unable to make it to the water which experts have said would have been potentially more dangerous for him but safer for sunbathers.

Sofia's father told Portuguese station TVI 24 after identifying himself as her grieving father when he interrupted a live broadcast from Sao Joao beach: 'We were on the beach at low tide where the water drains from the lake.

'I was with my brother-in-law trying to explain to my two daughters and my nephews what a rip-tide is and how it forms. One of my nephews pointed out the plane which was flying low by the sea wall.

'I told Sofia, who died, to run behind me, and she ran as fast as she could.

'When I saw the other children were safe and when I looked round to help Sofia, I saw her being hit.

'I went up to the man who was piloting the plane and he told me he had lost control of the aircraft. I could have punched him, I had that right, but I didn't do it.'

Firefighters stand next to the aircraft as an investigation gets underway into the cause of the crash

Firefighters stand next to the aircraft as an investigation gets underway into the cause of the crash

Insisting the pilot had flown in a straight line from the sea wall, he added: 'My opinion is that that man wanted to land the plane without any concern for others. He's suffering, I'm sure, but his main worry was landing safely.'

He also told the TV channel: 'First I want to make sure my family, my wife and my other daughter, are okay. Second I want to bury my daughter.

'Third, I want to make sure that man never flies again, and my fourth objective is to get these planes banned from flying over beaches.'

Police had to restrain angry crowds after the unnamed pilot, described by his flight school as 'very experienced', was branded a killer and threatened with violence.

Today it emerged giant Benfica basketball player Nicolas dos Santos, who was on the beach with his family, helped officers prevent retaliation attacks from taking place.

He told local media: 'I got involved to make sure there wasn't another tragedy. I wanted to help. Assaulting the pilot wasn't the solution.'

A recording of the Mayday call made from the 1978-built plane showed that the pilot wanted to land on a quieter beach in the nearby village of Cova do Vapor.

It made its emergency landing around 4.45pm, on a stretch of beach near to the Bicho d'Agua and Leblon restaurants.

Police could be seen interviewing shocked witnesses at the scene of the tragedy 

Police could be seen interviewing shocked witnesses at the scene of the tragedy 

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