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Five people were killed today in a midair collision that happened near Coombe Abbey, not far from Coventry Airport.

Beautiful Coombe Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery dating back to the 12th Century which was at the centre of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. It is now a luxury hotel with 83 bedrooms.

Those killed - three men and two women - were employees of a flying company based in Coventry, West Midlands.

Hero pilot involved in crash that killed five 'tried to guide plane to safety' after midair collision


By Katy Hastings and Eddie Wrenn
17th August 2008
Daily Mail



Coombe Abbey Hotel, is a former Cistercian monastery dating back to the 12th century which was at the centre of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. It is now an 83-bedroom luxury hotel


The pilot of one of the planes involved in the horror mid-air crash that killed three men and two women heroically tried to steer the aircraft to safety.

The crash happened at 11.43am today at Brinklow close to Coombe Abbey, an exclusive hotel set in 500 acres of Warwickshire parkland.

Four people were on one plane and the other person on the second craft.


Enlarge
Crash site: Rescuers arrive at the scene and survey the wreckage


The two men and two women in the Cessna 402 were all employees of Coventry-based flying company Reconnaissance Ventures.

The crew had been on a routine survey operation when the accident happened and had been just one minute from safety.

An eyewitness revealed he had seen a man behind the controls of the Cessna that plunged into trees heroically attempt to pull up the nose before impact.

Eyewitness David Mooney, 53, who lives in Binley Woods where the plane crashed, relived his horror as he saw the aircraft plunge into trees.



Researchers at the scene

The management advisor said he saw the pilot of the plane desperately trying to avoid the woodland.

He said: 'I saw a plane travelling east coming down sharply straight towards the woods.

'I immediately thought it looked like something was wrong then at the last minute just 50 feet up the pilot managed to pull up the nose of the plane.

'It looked like he was trying to save the plane from the trees.

'But then I realised that the plane was going down and it disappeared into the woods.

'It was weird because there was no bang.

'It landed at the crash site, I couldn't believe what I had seen - it's obviously very tragic.'


Video grab taken by Sky News shows some of the wreckage after the collision between two light aircraft near Coventry


Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service said one of the planes involved was a Cessna 407, which is slightly larger than a light aircraft. The other plane was a microlight.

It was carrying four people, including the pilot, and all have been confirmed dead.

The light aircraft, which smashed into pieces mid-air, was carrying just the pilot, who was also confirmed dead.

Speaking at the scene, Mick Leach, group manager for Rugby Fire Station, said: 'When I arrived here there was a lot of bystanders indicating that a collision had occurred.

'A search took place and we did locate two scenes of wreckage, one towards Coventry and one in Brandon Wood, approximately one mile apart.

'There are five confirmed fatalities - all persons have now been accounted for, one in a single engine aircraft which came down just towards the Coventry side of the hotel and there are four confirmed fatalities relating to the twin engine Cessna, which came down in Brandon Wood.

'As far as I am aware the single engine aircraft disintegrated pretty much in mid air - Debris is spread over a wide area.

'We are now gathering resources so we can move into the new phase of the operation.

'It is a very difficult scene but at the moment we are focussed on getting the task done.

'Clearly there are a lot of people that are going to be getting some pretty distressing news.'


Police seal off surrounding areas of the crash. The two planes landed in different locations after colliding over Coombe Abbey



Detective Superintendant Adrian McGee of Warwickshire Police answers questions following the air crash


The four victims on the Cessna are understood to all be employees of Reconnaissance Ventures Limited, a specialist aviation company based at Coventry Airport.

Group managing director Colin Dennis said he would not give the names of the four members of staff who had been killed until their families had been told.

But he did confirm the pilot was a man and that there was another male in the plane, together with two women.

He said: 'Our aircraft was on its final approach to land at Coventry Airport and was in contact with air control - it was just one minute away from landing.

'I don't know why the light aircraft collided with it. We are in the process of telling the next of kin now what has happened.

'The pilot had been flying for many, many years and had a wealth of experience.

'They were four highly respected and very well qualified members of the team.

'All of them were popular, well-regarded employees of our group.

'll our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

'We are a small company and we know all our employees very well - we are like just one big family.

'It is just a terrible, tragic accident.'





The road leading to the luxury hotel has been closed - as has Coventry airport - while emergency services deal with the crashes

A police statement said: 'There are two sites where debris from the aircrafts has landed which stretches across several miles.'

West Midlands Ambulance said one of the aircraft came down on farmland close to Coventry Road, where the lone pilot was found dead.

The second crashed in Brandon Woods where a doctor confirmed four deaths.

No wreckage was visible from the surrounding roads but a police helicopter was hovering above the area.

Fire crews and police could be seen on the closed section of the road.

Detective Superintendent Adrian McGee said: 'The planes collided about three miles away from the airport.

'No bodies have been recovered from the crash site at this stage.

'We have had no reports of debris landing near people in the area.

'I understand that this the first crash of its kind for a large number of years.'

Coventry Airport is a main hub for low cost airline Thomsonfly.

The nearby Coombe Abbey hotel is a restored 12th Century Cistercian Abbey which sits in the countryside on the outskirts of Coventry.

It is also a base to a helicopter training base and a light aircraft flying school - where the aircraft where thought to be heading when they collided.



Coventry Airport has been shut following the mid air crash


A spokesman for Thomsonfly said they had been told the airport had been closed but did not know when it would reopen.

He said the planes involved were not from Thomsonfly and anyone expected to meet passengers off flights due to land today should check before traveling as some flights could be diverted to Birmingham airport instead.

Mick Leach, from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue service, added there were generally lots of people around Coombe Abbey at this time on a weekend so there were many eye witnesses.

He said visibility in the area is quite good despite quite a lot of cloud cover.

Police asked witnesses to call 01926 415000.

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