Report released into UKIP leader's aircraft crash

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The Independent Online

An air crash which left UKIP leader Nigel Farage severely injured on general election day was caused by a campaign banner, an accident report said today.

The PZL-104 Wilga 35A light aircraft came down in Northamptonshire after the tow line for the banner became wrapped around the tailplane, according to the report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

This caused the aircraft's nose to drop and although the pilot Justin Adams, 45, "maintained some control of the aircraft" he could not prevent it crashing at Hinton-in-the-Hedges Airfield on the morning of May 6, the report said.

Mr Farage, who was standing - ultimately unsuccessfully - against the Commons Speaker John Bercow in the constituency of Buckingham, suffered broken ribs, bruised lungs and facial injuries.

He was treated at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and said afterwards: "I must be the luckiest man alive."

Mr Adams was also seriously injured and was trapped in the wreckage of the aircraft by a foot until freed by firefighters, the report said.

The AAIB said the aircraft had taken off from Hinton-in-the Hedges to tow the banner, with Mr Farage in the passenger seat "intending to receive text messages from colleagues on the ground giving locations where the banner could be shown to maximum effect".

The report said there were four unsuccessful attempts to connect the banner with the grapple hook attached to the aircraft.

A fifth attempt got the banner in the air but Mr Adams found that the control column was being pulled forward "with a force that required both hands to resist".

Attempting to land back at Hinton-in-the Hedges, Mr Adams found the control column was pulled forward "with a force he could not resist".

He managed to get the nose level but this did not prevent the aircraft "hitting the found with a high rate of descent".

The engine was separated from its mounts and the landing gear collapsed and the aircraft came to rest upside down.

Mr Farage, dressed in a pin-stripe suit, blue shirt and tie, with a UKIP rosette still attached, was able to get out after his harness was released by witnesses.

After the crash, one shocked witness said he thought both men had perished.

He said: "He was coming around to do another run and then it fell out of the sky, and flipped over on its front.

"It was all over in a couple of seconds. I really thought they had both died."

Mr Farage, who was not UKIP leader at the time but has since been re-elected as head of the party, later described the incident as "the scariest moment of my life".

He added that as the plane came down he had thought: "I hope this is over quickly."

Mr Farage, who is MEP for South East region, said the worst part was being trapped in the aircraft as petrol poured over his clothes and hair. "I thought: 'God, we survived the impact, now we're going to burn to death'."