Glider accidents leave three dead in rural England

Three men have died after two separate accidents involving gliders in rural England over the weekend.

In the first incident, in Ratley, near Banbury in the West Midlands at about 5.40pm on Saturday, a man was killed after losing control of his aircraft and crashing into a field.

The second accident, which happened in Sutton Courtenay, near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, at 2pm yesterday, involved a mid-air collision between two aircraft. Two RAF personnel, who were travelling in a training plane, died.

The pilot of the other aircraft, a glider, is said to have ejected from his plane just seconds before the crash and landed without injury after deploying his parachute.

A spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) said that investigators had attended both sites and would interview witnesses and examine the wreckages before compiling a report. He said that the investigations would not be twinned.

The man killed in the Saturday incident had been gliding above villages on the borders of north Oxfordshire and Warwickshire when he suddenly got into difficulties and the plane began losing height.

Police, paramedics and firefighters rushed to the scene of the accident alongside the B4086 road at Ratley, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, and found the pilot trapped in the wreckage. A spokesman for the West Midlands Ambulance Service said: "Unfortunately nothing could be done to save the man and he was confirmed dead at the scene." Police said they were withholding details of the dead pilot until all his relatives had been contacted and a post-mortem had been carried out to establish the exact cause of his death.

The RAF aircraft in the Sunday flight was said to have taken off from the airbase at Benson, Oxfordshire. The Thames Valley Air Ambulance and the Thames Valley Police helicopter, which both attended the crash scene, are also based at RAF Benson.

The alarm was raised by local resident James O'Neill who heard a crash and found the wreckage in a field behind his home. Mr O'Neill said: "I was in the house when I heard what sounded like a loud crash. I rushed outside and saw that about 100 yards from my home there was metal wreckage in a field."

A spokesman for the South Central Ambulance Service said "Amazingly, one of the victims [the glider pilot] was completely unscathed and only needed to be examined at the scene. Obviously, he was quite shocked."

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: "Police were called to Sutton Courtenay between Drayton and Abingdon, at around 2.30pm. Two people from the aircraft have died in the incident and we are in the process of informing the next of kin. The pilot of the glider parachuted to safety and is safe and well," the spokesman added.