Ecstasy voids crash death payout

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The Independent Online

A father whose teenage son died in a light aircraft crash will not get an insurance payout to fund his headstone - because the pilot was high on ecstasy, it emerged today.

Gordon Clapp hoped the insurers would pay out, so he could afford a £4,000 marble gravestone for his tragic son Jamie, 13.

But the company will not do so because the pilot that day, Robert Gunter, had taken the Class A drug, Mr Clapp was told.

His solicitors are not pursuing the claim, which would have been paid out if the pilot had simply made an error.

Jamie Clapp, from Mangotsfield, Bristol, died nearly two years ago when he was a passenger in the small plane which crashed into a field and burst into flames.

The pilot, 34-year-old Mr Gunter, was also killed. An inquest last year revealed he was high on ecstasy at the time of the crash.

But far from strengthening the case for compensation, Mr Gunter's drugged state means his insurance company is not obliged to pay, Mr Clapp revealed.

Had the Cessna 150 crash occurred through pilot error, a payout would have been viable.

Mr Clapp told the Bristol Evening Post: "I'm not after mega-bucks from the insurance company, just something to help cover the cost of a headstone.

"My solicitors have told me the insurance company won't pay out because the pilot was under the influence of drugs at the time and this has invalidated the claim.

"I've been told the cost is £4,000 - I haven't got that kind of money. I wanted the headstone so I could finally put my son to rest."

His son's inquest in Bristol heard that Mr Gunter, who was a friend of the family, had taken ecstasy before the flight. The trip was an early 14th birthday treat for Jamie, who attended Mangotsfield School.

The plane took off at a steep angle and stalled at between 200ft and 250ft before nose-diving and bursting into flames.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded in respect of Jamie while Mr Gunter's death was ruled as misadventure.

Since the tragedy, disabled Mr Clapp, a former builder and British Rail worker, has been raising money to revamp a local skate park in memory of Jamie, who was keen on the sport.

Mr Clapp's solicitors say they are pursuing the insurance claim with a firm of loss adjusters and the estate of Mr Gunther.

A total bereavement payment of £10,000 in total is being sought.

The Association of British Insurers said companies had discretion to decide whether payments should be made, depending on the terms of the policy.