A panicked pilot dumped an illegal cargo of drugs after a fighter jet was scrambled to shadow his light plane when he inadvertently flew over a nuclear power plant, according to reports.
French authorities picked up a “tourism plane” on radar as it flew over the highly-protected airspace of the Fessenheim site in the Haut-Rhin department in Grand Est on the German border.
The plane, which had flown over the border from Germany, took a totally illegal path over the site of the plant whose two reactors were closed down in 2020 because of their age and location in an area of seismic activity.
After an alert was issued, France’s national centre for air operations contacted the pilot and told him to change course, to no avail.
As a result, authorities scrambled a Rafale fighter jet to shadow the craft and force it to leave the no-fly zone.
The fighter jet then escorted the small plane as it flew south and saw it drop a number of “packages” over the Ardèche mountains.
The plane finally landed at the Lanes airstrip near Aubenas where the pilot jumped out and fled.
‘We didn’t think it could happen here’
Later, locals in Mars and Lachapelle-sous-Chanéac, told France Bleu they had come across a number of packets of drugs, which were identified as methamphetamine, an illegal drug in the same class as cocaine and other powerful street drugs. It has many nicknames – meth, crank, chalk or speed being the most common.
“My father heard the sound of a Rafale. He thought it was weird that they were doing manoeuvres on the weekend but wasn’t particularly worried about it,” Françoise Roche, the mayor of Mars, with a population of 270, told France Bleu, the local radio station.
“Other residents saw a lot of gendarmes without really knowing why. It was certainly a little surprising. We didn’t think it could happen here”, said the mayor.
A manhunt was launched and a few hours later, French SWAT officers managed to track down the mystery pilot that night.
The suspect is of Polish nationality and already known to police for drug-trafficking offences.
Police believe they have recovered at least some of the drug packets.
Methamphetamine can also be used to make crystal meth, commonly used as a “club drug,” taken while partying in night clubs or at rave parties. It is highly addictive.
France has registered a major uptick in the arrival of class A drugs from South America in recent months with the port of Le Havre particularly targeted.
Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.