Five die as light aircraft collide in mid-air

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The Independent Online

Witnesses told yesterday how they saw two planes collide in mid-air just a few hundred metres from a children's playground in Warwickshire.

All five people on board the two aircraft, which had been preparing to land at Coventry airport at about 11.30am, were killed.

Families on a day out at Coombe Abbey Country Park told how one plane was "totally destroyed" in front of their eyes, while the other managed to fly on for a short distance before crashing into nearby woods.

Police said the two planes, a twin-engined Cessna 402 carrying four people and a light aircraft similar to amicrolight, were in contact with Coventry's air traffic control at the time, in visibility conditions described as "quite good".

Malcolm Collins, from Daventry, Northamptonshire, had just arrived at the park's playground with his wife, children aged 10 and nine, and his sister's family when the two planes collided about 400 metres away from where they stood.

"As we got there, a twin-engined aircraft came over our heads, flying quite low, enough for us to notice and look up," he said.

"Literally as we watched it come over our heads, more or less like a flash, what I almost thought was a microlight came across, and the twin-engined plane smashed into it straight on and totally destroyed it. It just fell apart as if it was made of balsa wood. It was unbelievable.

"The twin-engined aircraft banked heavily to the left and I think its right propeller came off.

"We thought it was trying to recover. You are just thinking 'go on'. It seemed to get its height back for a little bit, but then it nose-dived into the trees. We heard a deep rumble as it obviously crashed."

All five people on board the planes were found to be dead when rescuers arrived. The four victims on the Cessna are understood to be employees of Reconnaissance Ventures, a specialist aviation company based at Coventry airport.

The crash left an extensive debris trail across a wide area, forcing several local roads to be closed, but it is believed that no one on the ground was hurt.

David Mooney, 53, who lives near where the Cessna crashed, said he saw the aircraft fall into trees. "I saw a plane travelling east coming down sharply straight towards the woods," he said. "I immediately thought it looked like something was wrong then at the last minute just 50 feet up the pilot managed to pull up the nose of the plane. It looked like he was trying to save the plane from the trees. But then I realised the plane was going down."

Firefighters were working yesterday to free the bodies. Warwickshire fire service said wreckage of the two planes had been found about a mile apart. Detective Superintendent Adrian McGee appealed for more witnesses to the crash.