TRIBUTES have poured in for hero Robert Mansell, the Knowle pilot who saved all nine of his passengers lives after the engine failed on his twin-engined aircraft.
The 32-year-old died after he was knocked unconscious when he ditched the Britten-Norman Islander plane near land in the Caribbean.
He managed to send out a mayday message saying ‘I’ve lost one of my engines – so long’, and his terrified passengers were picked up by rescue boats as the plane sank.
Despite frantic efforts, by the mainly Dutch tourists on board, to save him, Robert’s safety harness was damaged and could not be undone.
Trapped Robert went down with the plane near the island of Curacao, about 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela last Wednesday (October 21).
It’s thought Robert attended Arden School in Knowle before studying at Solihull Sixth Form College and then Bristol University, where he took a degree in aeronautical engineering.
He moved to Australia, gaining his pilot’s license before moving to work as a pilot in the Solomon Islands, St Maarten and then Curacao.
Tributes on website www.lastingtribute.co.uk included: ‘How very very sad! I remember Rob from school. He was a lovely person and must have been a very brave and skilled pilot. A true hero ! God bless him x x’ from Sarah Lee while Jason Powell wrote ‘I was with Rob a couple of months ago on a stag weekend. He was a lovely bloke. A dedicated pilot who loved what he did. He saved all of his passengers and died a hero. I’ll miss you mate.’
Antony Parsons wrote ‘What a person, What a man, What a tragedy, What a hero, God bless you mate, Rest in peace’.
Robert’s employers Divi Divi Air , said: “He’s a hero. 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.
Other pilots wouldn’t have known what to do but he landed the aircraft so that everyone could get out safely.”