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Crashing pilot steers clear of nursery school

A pilot averted potential disaster by steering his stricken gyrocopter away from a nursery school in Wiltshire where the royal wedding was being celebrated.

The unnamed pilot was killed instantly as the small helicopter burst into flames after passing low over the school roof and crashing into a nearby field.

Thirty-nine children were throwing a party at The Griffin School, north of Salisbury, when the low-flying aircraft got into difficulties on Thursday.

Headteacher Christine Hind, 57, said: "We didn't actually see the crash... we were having our celebration in the conservatory at the school. The gyrocopter went over the top of the school very low. We didn't realise it was in any difficulty. Some of the staff and children commented at the noise.

"It did crash quite a way from us, over the brow of the hill. It could have been a different story if it had been a little earlier."

The light aircraft crashed near Old Sarum Airfield and burst into flames on landing at around 12.30pm. A Wiltshire Fire Service spokesman said: "A fire engine and an emergency support unit from Salisbury went to the scene, to find the gyrocopter well alight and the male pilot dead. Firefighters have been assisting Wiltshire Police in the search for debris." The Air Accidents Investigation Branch sent an investigator to the scene.