Farnborough air crash witness describes 'fireball'
An inquest into how five people lost their lives when a private jet plummeted into a house, heard how one woman's neighbours screamed at her to leave her home as the "fireball" careered towards her.
The jury at Bromley Civic Centre retired today after hearing evidence on Tuesday about the crash on March 30, 2008, in which both pilots and three passengers died.
Det Chief Insp Jane Corrigan said police were inundated with 999 calls shortly after 2.30pm telling them a plane had come down in Romsey Close, Farnborough.
She told how terrified eye-witnesses described what they had seen.
She said: “Jill Wood, who lived in the house next door heard her neighbours shouting at her to get out of the house with her sister and her children.
“A large fireball rolled from the driveway.”
Coroner Dr Roy Palmer said it was ‘extremely fortuitous’ that the house the plane crash-landed on was empty.
Just a minute into the flight to Pau in France, pilot Mike Roberts, from Effingham, Surrey, told Air Traffic Control: “We have a major problem, a major power problem.
“It looks as though we’re going in, we’re going in.”
The fire, which engulfed the wreckage was around 2,000 degrees Celsius. Four experts from the Air Accident Investigation Bureau, the government organisation responsible for invest- igating all crashes, gave evidence.
They told the jury the most likely cause was that the pilots had inadvertently shut down one of two engines on the twin-engine Cessna Citation. The pilots thought they felt engine vibrations and shut off the one they believed was responsible.
However, the investigators believe it was actually another aeroplane part, the air cycle machine, which was causing vibrations.
As the crew came in to land, they reduced power on the remaining functioning engine but a missing rivet caused it to shut down.
Summing up, Mr Palmer said he expected a verdict of accidental death.
The case continues.
The air crash victims
The three passengers all worked for motorsport company Apex and were en-route to Pau in France where they were to test their Jaguar for the FIATGT3 European Championship.
Both pilots were experienced and had passed their medicals.
Talented engineer Christopher Allarton, 25, had landed his dream job with Apex just a week before after graduating from Coventry University.
At the time of his death, his father reported losing ‘the light of his life’.
Both former British Touring Car Championship race winner David Leslie and ex-racing car driver and head of Apex Motorsport Richard Lloyd, were described by Damon Hill, who raced for them at Le Mans, as ‘lovely guys’.
Mr Lloyd left behind wife Philippa and three daughters while Sir Jackie Stewart, the former Formula One world champion, said Mr Leslie’s death was “a great loss” to Scottish motorsport.
Pilot Mike Roberts 64, from Effingham, Surrey was described as a ‘hero’ by friends after avoiding the Princess Royal Hospital and fields where children were playing.
John Haffenden, a friend of Mark Chapman, a father- of-two and experienced commercial pilot, called him a ‘fantastic person’.
The 57-year-old from Shoreham-by-Sea, owned a flying school and lived with his wife Kathy.