Pilot hailed as hero after British jet crash into house
Published: March 31, 2008 | 6974th good news item since 2003
The pilot of an executive jet that crashed in southern England, killing all five people on board, was hailed as a hero Monday for preventing more casualties on the ground.
The twin-engined Cessna jet plummeted into a housing estate Sunday shortly after taking off from Biggin Hill Airport in southeast England heading for Pau in southwest France.
Pilot Mike Roberts, who died in the crash, was widely praised as a hero for managing to avoid a higher loss of life by steering the stricken plane away from other houses in Farnborough, Kent.
“Everybody will see there were some heroic efforts to reduce the number of casualties,” said Chief Superintendent Charles Griggs of the Metropolitan Police.
Police said the dead also included David Leslie, a 54-year-old racing driver and former winner of the British Touring Car Championship, and Richard Lloyd, manager of the Apex Jaguar motor racing team.
They were reportedly going to France for a practice session.
The owners of the house that the jet clipped before it plunged into the ground were away on holiday.
Peter Hale, one of the sons of the house’s owners, said his parents had been extraordinarily fortunate.
“There would have been no chance if they had been in the property, and on a normal Sunday afternoon they would have been about,” he said.
“We’re thankful they’re alive, they’re thankful they’re alive.”
The garage of a second house was destroyed and a car parked nearby was turned into a charred wreck.
The plane was five miles (eight kilometres) from the airport when the pilot issued a mayday call. It was around two miles north of the airport when it crashed.
Air accident investigators said that like many private jets, the plane was not fitted with a “black box” flight data recorder.
A statement released by the US government’s National Transportation Safety Board said the Federal Aviation Administration and the manufacturers of the plane were sending investigators to assist British experts in establishing the cause of the crash.