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Operation to recover crash bodies

PUBLISHED: 12:36 31 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:53 16 August 2010

FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  A fireman douses a house in Broadwater Gardens after a falling aircraft struck it on March 30, 2008 in Farnborough, England. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said they were called just before 2.40pm to a report of a private aircraft crashing into residential properties in Broadwater Gardens, Kent. Three passengers and the two pilots were all killed in the crash.  (Photo by Gareth Fuller-Pool/Getty Images)

FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND - MARCH 30: A fireman douses a house in Broadwater Gardens after a falling aircraft struck it on March 30, 2008 in Farnborough, England. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said they were called just before 2.40pm to a report of a private aircraft crashing into residential properties in Broadwater Gardens, Kent. Three passengers and the two pilots were all killed in the crash. (Photo by Gareth Fuller-Pool/Getty Images)

2008 Getty Images

EMERGENCY workers are today recovering the bodies of five people who were killed after a private jet crashed into a house.

EMERGENCY workers are today recovering the bodies of five people who were killed after a private jet crashed into a house.

Two pilots and three passengers died after a twin-engine private jet got into difficulties at 2.33pm on Sunday shortly after leaving Biggin Hill Airport for Pau in France.

The dead have not been officially identified but are believed to include ex-touring car racer David Leslie and racing team owner Richard Lloyd.

It is also believed that pilot Mike Roberts, a director of Flight Consultancy Services in Biggin Hill, was among the dead.

One of the pilots is thought to have made a mayday call to the airport describing a malfunction with the engine and requesting permission to return to the airport shortly before the Cessna Citation 1 jet crashed into two houses in Romsey Close, Orpington.

A pilot named as John Sidbury, who was landing another plane at Biggin Hill, heard the mayday call. The Cessna pilot reported "severe engine vibrations", he said.

He told the reporters: "You could hear the alarms in the cockpit.

"The pilot came back over the radio a second or two later and said 'We're going down, we're going down'.

"The radio stayed live and, as I turned off the runway I looked back and I saw the plane basically drop out of the sky.

"And then the radio went dead and black smoke came up from over the hill."

Mother of three, Wendy Lyon, 42, who has lived at Lyndhurst Close for five years, said: "I am 42 but probably look 62 after what I have been through today. I was indoors with the children and I just heard a bang, not a massive bang. I was looking after my neighbour's little boy.

"I ran round the back to see if I could help. It was just a ball of smoke.

"It is just horrendous - the potential for catastrophe and it was 20 yards from my back garden."

Martin Muscatt of Lyndhurst Close, saw the flames and thought it was a neighbour's house where his 12-year-old son George was playing.

He said: "I was outside on the drive when I heard the bang and I saw the flames. My son was playing and for a second I thought it was the house where he was. I sprinted down to their house. I could see balls of fire, 30 feet-wide. It didn't look like plane, just lots of pieces of metal in amongst the flames.

"I couldn't go into the woods because of the heat. There is nothing we could do."

Owners of the most damaged property, Edwin and Pat Harman, were on separate holidays at the time of the incident.

Mrs Harman, 68, returned to the property yesterday and is being comforted by relatives. Her 72-year-old husband is due to return today.

Two elderly people who were visiting a property in Romsey Close, Orpington at the time of the crash were taken to Princess Royal University Hospital suffering from shock and an asthma attack.

They have since been released and are safe and well.

Borough Commander Charles Griggs said: "Eyewitness accounts indicate that the pilot made every effort to avoid mass casualties. Media reports have talked of heroic actions and I think we can say that's true. The crash site is a dense housing estate with woodland behind it, it was very lucky as the house was empty.

"Our sympathy is with the friends and family of those who died. Friends and family of the deceased are owed a full and thorough investigation which will take a few days."

Residents at Romsey Close were evacuated last night and are staying with friends or in hotels. They will not be able to return for several days.

The latest accident echoed one in October 2005 when a light aircraft crashed into Victoria Gardens, less than half a mile from the airport. Two people died in the crash - the pilot and a pupil.

Orpington MP John Horam, MP for Orpington, who was due to visit the crash site at 12.30pm today, said the crash could have been much worse and confirmed the fears of residents campaigning against the airport's expansion.

He said: "One of the problems with the airport is that the direct approach means that planes have to fly low over our local hospital, schools as well as residential areas.

"I don't know how safe Biggin Hill is. I'm sure they make every effort to be safe and on this occasion it didn't work."

Members of campaign group Flightpath demanded that Bromley council ends talks with Biggin Hill over extending the times externally-based aircraft are allowed to land.

Flightpath's Ray Watson said: "It is sad that it's taken this terrible tragedy to bring a focus on safety at Biggin Hill Airport.

"In the recent weeks Bromley council have been suggesting that the airport lease should be changed to allow more intensive use of the early morning and late at night hours of operation.

"We call on the council to cease these talks. Time and again the residents at Bromley have said that they don't want expansion at Biggin Hill."

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