Narrow escape as jet skims estate's rooftops

Freighter crash confirms people's fears, writes Martin Whitfield

Displaced roof tiles and a piece of aircraft debris hanging from a garden tree tell the tale of how close Coventry's Willenhall estate came to disaster.

Miraculously, the Air Algerie Boeing 737 managed to slip between the terraces of Field March and James Croft before plunging into the woods.

Wires from the damaged electricity pylon hung down among garages and sheds.

"It's amazing that more people weren't killed," said Dave Chesworth, 49, the owner of a fruit shop with a clear view of the damaged pylon.

"On a lovely morning like today there are usually children playing in the woods."

The estate is less than two miles from the airport and lies directly beneath the main approach path. Several residents watched the crash from their bedroom windows.

Josephine Kelly, 60, a cleaner at the Willenhall Social Club, was just getting up in a house in James Croft when she heard the first crash. She believes the Algerian pilot must have deliberately tried to avoid the houses.

"I had just opened the curtains and there it was. I thought it was going to hit the house. It must have swerved as it was on its side. The first thing I heard was a lot of noise; it was only a matter of seconds. There was a big bang followed by four explosions.

"It has made people very nervous. They keeping tell us that they don't go too low but they do."

Residents on the estate, which was built in the 1950s and was once owned by Coventry City Council but is now full of homeowners under the right-to-buy scheme, had warned of the disaster but derived no pleasure from saying: we told you so.

Two petitions to the council, the airport's owners, in the past two years have complained of night flights, noise and low flying. Most residents tell of being able to see the pilots. "I often wondered if I should invite them in to tea," one said.

"We always said it was only a matter of time before it happened," said Mr Chesworth, who was one of many people from the estate who attended a protest meeting in Baginton village hall during the summer.

"A lot of people are going to be worried every time a plane goes over. It's going to be awful," he added.

Evelyn Davis, 60, who lives five doors from the wood where the aircraft crashed, was in her garden when the accident occurred.

"It was upside down as it went over. I could see the tail and engines," she said. "I complained about this aircraft two weeks ago. I said it was flying too low. I said two years ago that this should be stopped."

Mrs Davis assembled 500 signatures in protest against noise from the airport in 1992 and has been a leading figure in the row over flights involving the export of calves.

Her husband, Daniel, a 67-year-old retired building worker, rushed to the scene while Mrs Davis called the emergency services.

"Around the engines was on fire. There were people trying to see if anybody was alive but I was worried that it would explode. We will be frightened every time we see a plane. We are going to be a bag of nerves."

John Reeve, 59, a former Jaguar worker who, coincidentally, has the same name as Baginton airport's manager, said he would like to move after being constantly woken up by night flights.

But, like many residents, he has found he is unable to sell his house. "Things like this are bound to happen. I know you have to have airports but I want to get out of this area," he said.

Residents complain that extra business for the airport following a new contract with the Post Office and the recent launch of the veal flights to the Netherlands has meant more disturbance.

Brian Clack, leader of Coventry City Council, maintained the airport, one of the country's largest for cargo, had a good safety record. The last accident was in 1987 when a Meteor aircraft crashed during an air display.

He said he hoped the official inquiry would be swift. "What is important to me is the question of the flight path and how safe it is and whether it could be made safer."

The crash coincided with a planned demonstration outside the council offices by members of Coventry Animal Alliance, who have been staging a daily vigil outside the airport.

Helen, one of those present, said: "People have said it's justice. We just want it to stop, but we do not want anybody to have been hurt. People have been coming up to us as if we are responsible and are saying, `are you satisfied now?' We do not want toharm humans at all."

(Photographs and graphic omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada