Plane crashes into houses in Salford

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The Independent Online

Neighbours spoke of a "miracle escape" today when a light aircraft crashed between two semi-detached houses shortly after take-off and burst into flames.

The two men on board the single-engine plane, one in his late 50s and the other aged 21, were taken to hospital with extensive burns.

The Piper PA38 Tomahawk aircraft left City Airport Manchester at 12.20pm, flying only a short distance before coming down and hitting the two homes in Newlands Avenue in Eccles, Salford.

Extensive structural damage was caused to one of the properties.

A man sitting inside one of the houses at the moment of impact escaped injury, and recovered from the shock to help police douse the blazing plane.

No-one apart from the occupants of the aircraft, operated by Ravenair Flying School, was thought to have been injured.

A spokeswoman for North West Ambulance Service said: "There were two patients on board who both suffered burns. A man in his late 50s had 70% burns and a man aged 21 had 60% burns.

"Both were taken by the North West Air Ambulance to Wythenshawe Hospital."

Speaking at the scene, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service station commander Paul Duggan said neighbours rushed to help the stricken pilot and his passenger, who had landed "fairly neatly" between the two homes at numbers 7 and 9 Newlands Avenue.

He said: "The plane had also caught fire, so a number of people, including an occupant of the property, two passers-by and a passing police officer, then tried to fight the fire by putting water on it.

"That was fairly successful but not until some burns had been sustained by the occupants of the aircraft.

"One occupant of the plane was removed quite quickly but the second had to be cut from the wreckage."

A cordon remained in place as structural engineers from Salford Council assessed the damage to the two buildings and arranged temporary accommodation for the two families affected. Neighbours were also waiting to be told when it was safe for them to return to their homes.

Mark Frimston, 25, a forklift truck driver, who lives in a nearby block of flats nearby, said: "I heard a bang, like a gas explosion.

"It was as if a bomb went off - my baby started crying because it scared him.

"We could hear screaming, women screaming initially and then a man screaming in terror. I just panicked and ran downstairs.

"When I got outside I could see people running about and then when I got out of the front door there was loads of smoke in the air, you could taste it in your mouth.

"When I ran around the corner I could see the plane embedded in the side of a house.

"People were running to help and kicked the gate down to get into the garden where the plane had come down."

Mr Frimston added that the sight of microlights flying low over the houses towards Barton airfield was nothing unusual.

He described it as "enjoyable to watch" but said there had been accidents before.

"There's going to have to be a review of how far they are coming down because this has happened three times now."

John Kavanagh, 56, said his "blood turned cold" as the explosion ripped through the area.

He added: "It felt like everything shook - the houses and cars - and then smoke rose up high into the sky.

"I thought it was a gas explosion.

"The people that survived this have had a miracle escape."

A spokeswoman for City Airport Ltd said: "The Civil Aviation Authority has been informed, as has the Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Branch.

"The aircraft was operated by Ravenair Flying School.

"Investigations are now under way by both the emergency services and the AAIB."

The A57 Liverpool Road was closed in both directions after the crash but later reopened with traffic controls in place.

In a statement, Ravenair Flying School - which operates from Liverpool John Lennon Airport and City Airport Manchester - said: "Ravenair regrets to announce that an aircraft belonging to Ravenair training fleet was involved in an accident earlier today.

"The aircraft was a solo hire flight with two occupants on board, who have been taken to hospital.

"Our primary concern is for the welfare of the two persons on board the aircraft and their family and friends. Also for the people affected on the ground by this accident.

"We wish to express our gratitude and thanks to all of the emergency services and general public who assisted in the initial moments of the accident."