Two feared dead in plane crash

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The Independent Online

Two people were killed in a mid-air collision between two light aircraft yesterday, police said.

The pair died when their two-seater Luscombe Silvaire plane collided with another light aircraft in the skies near the village of Admaston, Staffs, just after midday.

The second aircraft, said air accident investigators, was carrying three people but managed to land safely at East Midlands Airport about 25 miles away.

The field, part of the land surrounding Rectory Farm, remained sealed off tonight. Specialist investigators will carry out detailed examinations in the morning.

The bodies of the two victims, said to have taken off from a local airfield, were removed from the scene this evening.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is taking the lead in the case.

Senior investigator Tim Atkinson said it was too early to say exactly what had caused the collision. Weather conditions were clear and visibility was fine, he said.

He said both planes were privately owned on leisure flights and were not under air traffic control when they collided.

Such procedure is normal for the size of plane, he added.

"Aircraft do collide," said Mr Atkinson. "Mid-air collisions are mercifully very rare, a great deal of general aviation is done on the principle that the pilot keeps a good look-out."

Farmer Michael Sargeant, who owns the land where the Luscombe came down, described the scene when he rushed to the burning wreckage.

He said: "I saw smoke down my field. I went down in my Land Rover, I pulled right up to it. The plane was burning but almost burned out.

"I could see bodies there but I could see there was nothing I could do. I came straight back and rang 999."

Mr Sargeant, 64, added: "It looked like two bodies. They weren't that badly burnt but you could see it was too late.

"The wreckage was scattered all about the land and the plane was pretty well burned out by the time the fire brigade got here."

A pilot who used to regularly fly around Blithfield Reservoir where the Luscombe crashed said the area could be congested with light aircraft squeezed by flight restrictions into a tight area.

He said: "That area is extremely busy for light aircraft and microlights and there can be a lot in that small area.

"They are boxed in by the Pennines to the north and the restricted airspace of Birmingham Airport to the south and East Midlands airport to the east.

"Many aircraft use the reservoir as a navigational point."

East Midlands Airport was closed for several hours after the larger aircraft, used for activities such as parachuting, made a forced landing following the collision. No one on board was injured.

It is believed that aircraft was from the Lake District.

Aircraft enthusiast Richard Chamberlain, who was watching the skies, heard the mayday call from the pilot on a scanner.

He told BBC News: "The pilot reported he had hit something.

"He didn't know what it was but said there was burning debris beneath him and he said he had lost part of his undercarriage.

"It was very unnerving watching it come in. It looked to have lost two or three wheels.

"It landed on its left-hand side, cocked over onto its wing, but there was no fire."

Chief Supt Mick Harrison, of Staffordshire Police, said officers were trying to trace relatives of the two victims and he could give no details of the two dead people.

No one is in custody over the crash, he added.