A British pilot drowned after saving the lives of nine passengers by ditching his plane into the sea when one of his engines failed, The Sunday Times reported.

Robert Mansell, 32, was hailed as a hero after carrying out a forced landing of a light aircraft in the Caribbean between the islands of Curaçao and Bonaire. Last night it emerged that his final words to air traffic controllers were: “I’ve lost control of one of my engines ... so long.”

At 9.30am on Wednesday, Mansell, from Knowle, in the West Midlands, had embarked on his fourth island hop of the day, carrying seven locals and two Dutch tourists. He was flying at 3,500 feet when the right engine of his Britten-Norman Islander gave out.

He made a mayday call but was knocked unconscious by the impact of the landing. He became trapped between his seat and the cockpit instrument panel. Several passengers were knocked unconscious in the incident but regained consciousness with minor head injuries and escaped with everyone else on board.

Two passengers on the Divi Divi Air flight attempted to pull Mansell out of the aircraft but fled through the door when it began to sink. The passengers were all plucked from the sea by rescue services.

One former colleague has posted details of the crash on a tribute website. He said: “He slammed his head on the cockpit glass and remained unconscious. It was difficult to get the safety belts out. [They had] 10 to 15 seconds to get out of the plane, otherwise more people could have died.”

The Foreign Office has confirmed that Mansell died on Wednesday. His body has yet to be recovered: rescuers have located the aircraft beneath the Caribbean sea but lack the equipment to retrieve it.

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