British couple kiled in air crash

A British pilot and his stuntwoman wife have died after their small plane crashed into a mountain near the French Riviera.

James and Jacqueline Balmer - who went by the stage name Jacquie de Creed and became famous for her spectacular car stunts - are understood to have set off from Italy and were making their way towards Troyes, some 100 miles south east of Paris, when they were killed.



The wreckage of their light aircraft was discovered on Friday on Mont Agel, between the port of Menton and the principality of Monaco.



According to local reports, the couple from Cirencester, in Gloucestershire, took off in a twin engine Piper PA-39 shortly after 10am but lost all radar contact at 11.28am.



The stricken six-seater plane was found near the villages of Peille and Gorbo at around 3.40pm after authorities launched an extensive four-hour sea and air rescue operation. This involved an aeroplane, several helicopters, a lifeboat and a navy minesweeper.



A high mountain patrol was dispatched and the bodies of Mr Balmer, 68, and his wife, 54, were transported to the nearby city of Nice.



Local reports suggested that fog, which blanketed the region yesterday morning, may have forced the aircraft to travel at a low level before it crash-landed on private property at an altitude 814 metres.



It had earlier been spotted flying at "very low altitude", according to one news outlet.



Mrs Balmer had earned herself a reputation as a stunt woman and went by the name of Jacquie de Creed.



According to her website she rose to fame in 1983 when she jumped a car "further than any man or woman in history", breaking the long distance car ramp jump record.



"She drove a car up a ramp at a staggering 140mph clearing 232ft 1in. In a specially prepared 1969 Ford Mustang," the website claims.



In a short biography, it is said she was one of only a few people in Britain who could drive a car on its side, balanced on two wheels.



She had written a book with her friend and former stunt partner Dick Sheppard called Close to the Edge, which detailed her daredevil career.



Her risky career saw her perform on a Guinness Book of Records television programme and, according to her book, she survived "probably the most spectacular car crash ever filmed from which the female driver lived to tell the tale".



Clips on YouTube appear to show the stuntwoman smiling as she emerges from the wreck of a car following a dramatic crash.



According to local newspaper reports, the mother-of-two - who appeared on numerous television shows, made commercials for Bovril and Heinz and is said to have given driving lessons to a host of television presenters - retired in 2005 and became a teacher of speech and drama.



Mr Balmer is understood to have run R Scott & Co menswear shop in Cirencester.



A shop worker said employees did not wish to comment on his death.













A family friend, who gave her name as Rachel, said the Balmers' relatives were out of the country and did not wish to comment at this time.

A spokesman for the Nice-Montagne police said an investigation had been launched into the cause of the crash.



"The couple were found during the afternoon following the plane crash on Mont Agel," he said.



"At present we do not know what caused the accident. Investigations are ongoing."



A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "We can confirm the deaths of two British nationals following a plane crash in the south of France.



"Next of kin have been informed and we are providing consular assistance."



Lynn Hilditch, 63, who lives near the large detached house the couple owned, described them as friendly people who were well known in the local area.



Mrs Balmer gave talks to members of the community about her work as a stuntwoman, while Mr Balmer's shop was a long-running family business that was something of a local institution, she said.



"It's going to be a real shock to the shop people because it's a very old-fashioned shop that's been run so beautifully for years," she said.



"He was a lovely guy. I think people spoke very highly of him.



"They were friendly people."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own