A British warplane performing at an airshow plunged into Lake Ontario and burst apart Saturday, sending up a plume of water and debris in front of more than 10,000 horrified spectators on shore.
The seven crew members aboard all were presumed dead, a Canadian Defense Department official said.The four-engine Royal Air Force Nimrod, flying at the Canadian National Exhibition, swooped low over the lake and was making a steep turn when it crashed about 1 1/2 miles from shore, according to spectators.
"It hit the water with a huge splash. It sort of belly-flopped," said Paul Loong, a witness.
Some said the plane, which was demonstrating its ability to evade heat-seeking missiles, had just dropped flares before it crashed. Others said a cargo door appeared to be open.
As the plane sank, police and military helicopters and boats raced out from shore. Divers jumped from the helicopters into the water, where pieces of the plane were floating.
The Nimrod, used for reconnaissance and marine patrols, can carry a crew of 12, but the Royal Air Force said seven people were aboard for Saturday's flight.
Albert Yule, a spectator from Orangeville, Ontario, said the plane seemed to stagger in the middle of a maneuver.
"It turned to the left, lost its flying speed and then plunged into the lake like a bullet into a board."
Yule said spectators began shouting, "He's in trouble! He's in trouble!"
"It was flying away from shore," Loong said. "The plane's engines just stopped. It was flying rather low and I thought that they couldn't be cutting their engines."
Small children stood watching with their hands over their mouths, parents gripping their shoulders, as military and police helicopters hovered over the crash site.