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French rescue services have been searching a stretch of the south-west coast for a co-pilot who jumped into the sea when a light aircraft got into trouble on a training flight.

The Piper light aircraft then made an emergency landing on the beach at Biscarosse, south-west of Bordeaux.

Although the instructor was unhurt, attempts to find the co-pilot some 300m (1,000ft) offshore were unsuccessful.

It was unclear what led to the plane getting into difficulties.

However, the experienced pilot was praised for bringing the plane down safely on the beach, in a restricted military area used for missile testing.

Helicopters and lifeguard speedboats were immediately deployed to look for the missing co-pilot. The trainee, a 32-year-old man, was not wearing a life jacket, according to the Sud Ouest news site.

The search was suspended late on Tuesday but resumed on Wednesday morning.

According to French reports, prosecutors were investigating several theories. Either the plane had lost oil and got into technical problems or the co-pilot had tried to take control of the plane causing it to nose-dive.

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