Final two named in private jet crash

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The two remaining victims of yesterday's plane crash were named today. Sources said Christopher Allarton, 25, and Michael Chapman, 57, the private jet's co-pilot, were among the five men killed in the incident in Farnborough, Kent.

Crash investigators have begun examining the wreckage at the scene, and emergency services said they hoped to recover the bodies today.

No "black box" flight data recorder was fitted to the plane, which was privately registered, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said.

Tributes were paid to two of the dead, David Leslie and Richard Lloyd, who were popular figures in the world of motor racing, while the pilot Mike Roberts was hailed as a hero for attempting to steer the stricken aeroplane away from houses.

Former Formula One driver David Brabham, who raced with Mr Leslie, said: "David was a great guy. He was a very good driver and a distinguished gentleman.

"It is the saddest news, both for his family and for the racing community."

The plane crashed into a house in a cul-de-sac and burst into flames but fortunately nobody on the ground was injured as the couple who lived there were away on holiday.

Eyewitnesses said it was a "miracle" more people had not been killed but said the pilot appeared to make a desperate bid to avoid houses in the cul-de-sac.

They described seeing panic on the faces of those inside before the twin-engined Cessna Citation I clipped a building and crashed.

The business flight had taken off from Biggin Hill Airport and was heading to Pau, in south west France.

It was only around five miles from the airport when the pilot put out a mayday call and it was around two miles north of the airport when it crashed.

Mr Lloyd was the owner and manager of the Apex Jaguar racing team, which competes in the FIA GT3 European Championship, and it is understood he was travelling to the Nogaro circuit in south-west France for pre-season testing.

Mr Leslie was Scottish karting champion five times before winning the Formula Ford title in 1978. He had spells in Formula Three, Sportscars and Thunder Saloons before spending over a decade in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC).

He won nine BTCC races, finishing second overall in 1999, and continued to race until his death, winning a BritCar race at Silverstone as recently as March 22.

In recent years he covered GT and touring car racing for Eurosport, and Martin Haven, who worked alongside him in the commentary box, said he was an invaluable member of the channel's motorsport team.

"His technical knowledge was second-to-none and his ability to instinctively analyse a situation was unerringly accurate," he said.

"It's a rare thing in a sport as gladiatorial as motor racing not to make enemies and it says everything about David that he simply had none.

"In life, as in racing, he believed in fair play and treated everyone as he would expect to be treated, with courtesy and exemplary good manners.

"David was a much-valued colleague and a good friend, a joy to work with and even more fun to relax with."

The director of British Eurosport, David Kerr, said the death had come as a terrible shock to the channel's staff, and sent his condolences to the victims' families and friends.

Formula One legend Sir Jackie Stewart said Mr Leslie's death was "a great loss to Scottish motorsport".

He said: "David was a highly skilled and talented racing driver who was also an excellent engineer and technical expert within the sport.

"A proud Scot who represented our country internationally in a dignified and stylish fashion."

Chief Superintendent Charles Griggs, from the Metropolitan Police, said the process of searching the site for clues and clearing the wreckage of the crash could take several days.

Pat and Ed Harman, whose house at 5 Romsey Close took the impact of the aircraft, were on holiday when the tragedy struck.

The garage of a second house was destroyed and a car parked nearby was left a charred wreck.

A number of families who were displaced by the crash have been housed temporarily in nearby hotels.

Commenting on the pilot's actions, Mr Griggs said: "What can I say. Everybody will see there were some heroic efforts to reduce the number of casualties."

Well-wishers laid floral tributes at the scene of the crash throughout the day.

Douglas Field, of Knockholt, Kent, had been a friend of the Mr Roberts, the pilot, for 10 years.

He said: "We are all shocked by this because he was one of those outstanding figures, a tremendous person."

He added: "It is a great loss to Biggin Hill because he was a regular flier and he will be missed by everyone."

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) spokesman said: "The AAIB inspectors are on the scene and investigating all aspects of the accident. It is not possible to speculate on the cause at this stage.

"The aircraft is registered in a private category and flight data recorders (black boxes) are not required and were not fitted. The AAIB will produce a preliminary report within 28 days."

The Motor Sports Association said that Mr Leslie leaves a wife, Jane, and two sons, while Mr Lloyd leaves a wife, Philippa, and three daughters.

British Touring Car Championship Series director, Alan Gow, said: "David of course was a great competitor within the BTCC for many years - always exciting to watch, fiercely competitive and incredibly passionate about his sport.

"Richard I never knew as a driver, but as the team owner of Audi Sport UK - and he was a thoroughly likeable person, of real integrity and determination.

"The BTCC is a close-knit community and we mourn the tragic loss of both David and Richard. However our sense of loss is nothing compared to those of their families and our thoughts go out to them at this terrible time."

Colin Hilton, chief executive of the Motor Sports Association - the governing body of UK motor sport - paid tribute to Mr Leslie and Mr Lloyd.

He said they were both "lovely, gentle people", and said Mr Lloyd would be best remembered as head of the Bentley team which won the gruelling Le Mans 24-hour race in 2003.

Comments