Writtle: Family pay tribute to plane crash victim Simon Chamberlain
23:11 30 March 2014
Graham S Dean Photography
A man who was killed when the light aircraft he was travelling in as a passenger crashed into a field has been named.
Simon Chamberlain, 29, a father-of-one, from Harlow, died along with the Yak 52 plane’s pilot when they got into difficulties at around 2.55pm on Saturday after flying out of North Weald airfield near Chelmsford.
Witnesses described how the training aircraft had been attempting a somersault before going down and bursting into flames in a rural area between Ongar and Writtle.
Police have said they are not in a position to identify the pilot, but confirmed yesterday that he was also from Essex.
Mr Chamberlain’s family said in a statement: “Yesterday there was a light aircraft crash near Writtle in Essex. Simon Chamberlain, who was 29, was the passenger in that plane. He would have been 30 in May.
“Lizzie, his wife, has lost her best friend and soulmate. His son, Charlie, who will be two years old in August, has lost his father. And his parents, Paul and Steph, have lost a loving son. We love him more than anything in the world.
“Our hearts also go out to the other person involved in this tragedy.”
Last night a spokesman for the Air Accident Investigation Branch confirmed that representatives had been sent to the scene of the crash.
Paul Aston, from the church at Cooksmill, said: “It sounded just like a road traffic accident. There was the sound of a light aircraft, then this crump and then silence.
“There wasn’t a bang. We have lots of light aircraft fly over us, it’s nothing abnormal.”
North Weald airfield is owned by Epping Forest District Council. Deputy chief executive of the council, Derek Macnab, went to the scene soon after the accident.
He said: ‘People at North Weald Airfield are shocked and dismayed following reports of an aircraft crash at Cooksmill Green earlier this afternoon. Details are yet to be confirmed but our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of those involved.”
Sam Gildersleeve, from Ongar, said he was having lunch with friends when he saw the plane flying low close to the A414 near Cooksmill Green.
Mr Gildersleeve said: “At this point we all looked at the sky and the plane attempted to do a somersault unsuccessfully, we heard a popping sound and noticed the plane did not re-emerge.
“We then noticed smoke coming from the site in the field where the plane had crashed. Shortly after the emergency services appeared.”
There are also reports that teenage Army cadets ran to help the victims.
Tristram Taylor, from Chelmsford, told the BBC he ran over to the crash site with two boys when they saw the plane hit the ground after a “backward somersault”. But the flames were so severe they could not reach the men inside.
Mr Taylor, 27, said he was in a car with his mother leaving a nearby garden centre when they noticed a plane flying low.
He said: “I got out and ran towards it with a couple of Army cadets that were in the car behind – they were probably only about 15 or 16 years old.
“There were flames coming from the cockpit – they must have been about 10ft high.”
The aircraft was “completely alight” when firefighters arrived at the scene near Cooksmill Green.
A spokesman for the fire service said: “On arrival the incident commander reported that the plane was completely alight. Crews used foam and had extinguished the fire by 3.55pm.”
An Essex police spokeswoman said: “Emergency services rushed to the scene and fire crews extinguished the fire caused when the plane crashed.
“Two men, a pilot and his passenger – both from Essex – were on board. The plane had flown out from North Weald airfield.”
Two people were also killed when a Yak 52 aircraft from North Weald crashed in April 2011.
Instructor Simon Hulme, 33, and his student, Spencer Bennett, 43, died when their plane crashed near Langford, east of Chelmsford.
An inquest in Chelmsford in 2012 heard they were on the last day of a three-day formation flying school when the aircraft spun and plummeted from 1,800ft into a lake. The jury returned verdicts of accidental death.