Low cloud blamed for crash

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The Independent Online
FOUR MEN who died when their light aircraft crashed into a mountain were on their way to a sporting shoot, it was learnt yesterday.

The crash was only discovered on Sunday, the day after it happened, when a hotelier on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland, telephoned to inquire why the men had not taken up their reservations. A search was immediately launched.

Police named the victims as Robert Watts, 55, of Ribchester, Lancashire, the owner of the aircraft and a qualified pilot; Trevor Balmforth, 60, a company director, of Clitheroe, Lancashire; John Greenwood, 46, a builder, of Slaidburn, Lancashire, also a qualified pilot; and Ian Astley Shaw, 53, a fishmonger, of Waddington, Lancashire.

They died when the single-engined Socata TB20 Trinidad crashed on Glas Bheinn on the Hebridean island of Jura, on Saturday. There were no survivors. The four left Blackpool airport late on Saturday morning en route for Mull, where they were to stay in a hotel close to the airport and later take part in an organised sporting shoot.

The aircraft is believed to have flown into cloud 200ft (60m) below the 1,839ft (560m) summit of the mountain while on its way to Mull.

Mr Watts had not filed a flight plan but was not obliged to do so under British flying regulations.

Police and air accident investigators were yesterday travelling to the accident site and efforts were being made to recover the bodies.

Freak weather probably caused the aircraft to crash into the mountain, the pilot's son said.

Simon Watts, 32, said his father was 'a very experienced, competent and careful pilot' who had flown for nearly 10 years.

He said: 'He was thoroughly prepared for the flight and did all the correct things. I think freak weather is the only thing that could have contributed to the accident. Flying was a great passion of his. They had done this trip before 12 months ago and it was a great success, so they decided to go back.'