Pilot died a hero
PUBLISHED: 16:16 02 April 2008 | UPDATED: 11:37 12 August 2010
FLORAL tributes were laid at the scene of a devastating air crash where five people, including a heroic pilot were killed. The bodies of first pilot Mike Roberts,
FLORAL tributes were laid at the scene of a devastating air crash where five people, including a "heroic" pilot were killed.
The bodies of first pilot Mike Roberts, 64, from Effingham, Surrey, and his co-pilot Mike Chapman, 57, from Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, were the first to be taken from the scene by ambulance on Monday afternoon.
The bodies of former British touring car champion David Leslie, 54, owner of Apex Jaguar racing team, Richard Lloyd, 63, and Christopher Allarton, 25, who only joined Apex Motorsport last week, were removed later in the day.
A friend of Mr Roberts, who had known him for 10 years, was the first to lay flowers and spoke tearfully of their lost friendship.
Pilot Douglas Field, 70, said: "He was a hero. You know as a pilot that he would have put his life last in order the save the others.
"Mike was a very lively spirit, it was difficult to stop him. He was very dynamic indeed and always smiling.
"I'd known him for about 10 years. When I first started flying he was very helpful. It was exceedingly important for me to come to pay my respects.
"I spoke to him on Saturday and he told me he was flying to Pau the next day. I asked how he was and how things were going. It wasn't unusual for him to fly to Spain or France or Germany once a week or so.
"He said he wanted to talk to me when he got back and asked if I'd drop up to the hangar to help out with something. That was our relationship. I live very close by.
"It fits the bill that everyone is calling him a hero. He would have considered his life the last."
A spokesman for Biggin Hill Airport said: "Mike Roberts, the captain, was a very experienced commercial pilot and a friend of many of us on the airport. His cool judgment in managing the aircraft emergency and minimising loss of life on the ground is typical of such a remarkable man and he will be sorely missed."
Mr Roberts business partner of 15 years, Mike Wells added: "I know that he would have done everything in his power to minimise the effects of this tragic incident on his colleagues, passengers and people on the ground. He will be missed by everyone in the flying community at Biggin Hill and by his many friends worldwide."
Father-of-two Mr Chapman, who owned a flying school at Shoreham Airport with his wife Kathy, was described as a "fantastic person" by his friend John Haffenden.
The airport manager told reporters: "Losing Mike in those tragic circumstances, nobody can believe it.
"He was a person you always wanted to talk to, a quiet person at times but with a sense of humour."
Borough Commander Charles Griggs said it was a "miracle" that more people had not been killed and praised Mr Robert's bravery and skill.
He said: "There are reports of the pilot taking heroic actions and I think we can say that is true.
"He did everything he could to avoid mass casualties and it's a miracle that more people weren't killed thanks to the actions of the pilot."
MP for Orpington, John Horam, said: "By all accounts the courageous actions of the pilot saved many lives."
There was no black-box on board the Cessna Citation 501 when it plummeted into the house on to Romsey Close, Orpington.
Teams from the USA and Canada are helping police, forensic teams and the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigate the scene.
The bodies of the dead were taken to the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH) mortuary for post mortems on Monday.