Four die as plane 'falls from sky'

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The Independent Online

Four people were killed after their light aircraft crash-landed in a field in West Sussex.

Four people were killed after their light aircraft crash-landed in a field in West Sussex.

More than 10 paramedics tried to rescue passengers from the wreckage of the Robin DR 400 four-seater plane, but were unable to save the victims, who are all believed to be young men.

The aircraft came down at Blacklands Farm in the village of Sharpthorne, near East Grinstead, yesterday afternoon. Two ambulances and the air ambulance helicopter were sent to the crash scene, but the crews were stood down after the occupants of the plane were found dead.

Eye-witnesses said that they had heard the plane in obvious trouble as the engine spluttered. "It appeared to be circling and obviously in difficulty," said one. "The pilot looked as though he was trying to find somewhere to land. I saw the wings fall off before it fell out of the sky."

The plane crashed just a few hundred yards from an activity centre where 70 children and adults were coming to the end of a week-long half-term break. None of them witnessed the crash.

Last night, air accident investigators were at the scene, trying to determine the cause of the accident, which is the second fatal crash involving a light aircraft in the past two months.

A millionaire businessman and four members of his family were killed just before Christmas last year when their light aircraft crashed just after take-off and exploded.

The pilot, the motor racing promoter Brian Kreisky, had taken off from Blackbushe airport, Hampshire, in fog in his twin-engined Beech 200 Super King Air plane which then crashed into a rubber factory.

Mr Kreisky had been taking his brother, the brother's two sons and the girlfriend of one of them for a Christmas holiday in Palma, Majorca.

Official figures show that between 10 and 20 people are killed in light aircraft accidents in the UK every year, though the total crash figures are higher.

Between January 1997 and July 1999, 602 accidents or serious incidents involving light aircraft were notified to air accident investigators.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said that it was not yet known where the aircraft had taken off from, or where it was heading. It is not thought that the aircraft struck any buildings as it crashed.

"We received an emergency call from a member of the public to say that he thought a plane had crashed," said the spokesman.

"A search of the area was mounted and the wreckage was soon found."

This latest light aircraft crash took place in a field that, during summer, is used as a camp-site for Scouts.