An RAF Red Arrows pilot named Flt Lt Jon Egging, 33, died when his plane crashed following a display at the Bournemouth Air Festival in Dorset.
The crash happened about 1km south east of Bournemouth Airport at 13:50 BST.
Shaun Spencer-Perkins, who witnessed the crash from Throop Mill, said: “I heard a rushing sound and I saw a plane about 15m above the ground racing across the fields.
“It impacted and bounced across the field – made it across the river.
“Members of the public jumped into the water to search for the cockpit.
“We waved down the helicopter; I took off my son’s orange jacket and my wife’s red jumper to get the attention of the helicopter.”
A Team Player – No more
Group Capt Simon Blake, the Commandant of the RAF’s Central Flying School, said Flt Lt Egging, known as ‘Eggman’, had joined the Team as Red 4 in the Autumn of 2010 and flew on the right hand outside of the famous Diamond Nine formation.
He said this was “An accolade in itself – being the most demanding position allocated to a first year pilot”.
“Throughout his winter training and the display season to date, his professionalism, skill and humility have shone through.
“A true team player, his good nature and constant smile will be sorely missed by all,” he added.
Air Vice Marshal Mark Green, Air Officer Commanding 22 (Training) Group, also paid tribute to the pilot saying: “Jon’s professionalism, competence and ever present smile made him stand out from the crowd.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman later said they were investigating the incident. The Military Air Accident Investigation Branch has also begin their work on identifying the cause of the crash.
However, the Organisers of the Bournemouth Air Festival said events were continuing as scheduled.
We just lost an young life here and the Organisers are ok to go with the event. Way to go team!!!!