Glider pilot crash-lands in trees at Chanctonbury Ring

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Media captionThe pilot and his glider were in a difficult position for rescuers to reach

A glider pilot crashed into trees and was left dangling for hours 50ft above the ground.

He came down just after 13:00 GMT on Saturday at Chanctonbury Ring, a prehistoric hill fort in West Sussex.

The pilot called for help and was located by emergency crews about 40 minutes later.

In a "challenging and protracted" rescue operation in ice and snow, he was finally winched to safety nearly four hours after the crash.

'Things could change'

Photojournalist Eddie Mitchell said the pilot was "happy and relieved" to be rescued.

"Everyone was aware that in one minute, things could change instantaneously," he said.

"If the plane had gone down, it would have changed the dynamics of the rescue."

A Coastguard helicopter finally reached the pilot just before 16:40.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, police helicopters and the ambulance service were also involved.

Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption The pilot was finally winched to safety after nearly four hours

Mr Mitchell said there was plane debris everywhere, but the pilot was "warm and safe in his cockpit".

He said the the rescue teams were working "in extreme conditions, very cold, very snowy".

Mr Mitchell added: "It really didn't look like it was going to work, but in the end the sheer skill of the helicopter pilot and crew paid off.

"We were all so relieved. It was sheer professionalism - one of the best rescues I have ever seen in my career."

Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption The pilot was finally brought back to land four hours after the crash

Coastguard helicopter pilot, Jason Davies, said the rescue had proved "tricky" as the winchman had to navigate himself through the trees.

The glider pilot was brought to the ground where he was pictured in an embrace before being taken to hospital.

"Thankfully we were able to rescue the man and pass him into the care of the ambulance service to be checked over before he was met by his wife," Mr Davies said.

Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption The glider pilot was checked over by paramedics after his ordeal

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