Fourth person dies in airshow crashes

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The Independent Online

A British pilot died yesterday when his Spitfire crashed during a French air show, in the third fatal crash of its kind in three days.

Witnesses saw smoke coming from the engine of the aircraft flown by Martin Sargeant, 56, before he veered away from the crowd at the show in Normandy and crashed into a nearby field. It exploded when it hit the ground, fire crews said.

Yannick Bobin, a fireman at the scene of the crash, said: "Earlier, we had seen smoke coming from his engine and the airport siren was rung. The pilot wanted to land on the runway, but at the last moment, when he saw he would crash into the crowd, he swerved to avoid them."

Organisers said 11 Spitfires and a Hurricane were taking part in the air show, near the northern city of Rouen, the first to bring together such an important collection of Second World War aircraft in France since the war.

The crash came after the deaths of three aviators at the weekend during an air show at Biggin Hill, Kent. The first two men, Air Marshal Sir Kenneth Hayr, 66, and Jonathan Kerr, an electronics engineer, died after their 1950s De Havilland Vampire jet spiralled out of control.

The third man who died was named yesterday as Guy Bancroft-Wilson, a former member of the Red Arrows. Mr Bancroft-Wilson, a British Airways captain, was killed when his 60-year-old American King Cobra fighter spiralled out of control and exploded into trees.

He had been attempting a vertical dive as part of an aerobatics team of three fighters. He had three children and had been a member of the Red Arrows between 1987 and 1989, the MoD said yesterday.