Crash survivors tell of lucky escape

A PILOT and his passenger spoke of their miraculous escape last night after a microlight plunged into a Suffolk field in a "freak accident".Ian Johnson, 37, of Newbourne, near Woodbridge, and his brother-in-law Gary Ashford, 33, of Leiston, had been circling the air for an hour when the microlight they were travelling in hurtled to the ground.

A PILOT and his passenger spoke of their miraculous escape last night after a microlight plunged into a Suffolk field in a "freak accident".

Ian Johnson, 37, of Newbourne, near Woodbridge, and his brother-in-law Gary Ashford, 33, of Leiston, had been circling the air for an hour when the microlight they were travelling in hurtled to the ground.

The pair were freed from the wreckage in the isolated potato field in Newbourne Road, Waldringfield, on Monday afternoon after rescuers rushed to the scene.

Last night, they were in adjoining beds at Ipswich Hospital and Gary said: "I am feeling lucky. Things could have been a lot worse."

Recalling the accident, he said: "The ground just came up very quickly. Obviously at the time that was available there was nothing that could be done. Ian had done everything that could be done.

"The scariest thing was wondering if anybody would actually come."

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Gary dislocated his ankle in the crash and some of the microlight wreckage had to be lifted to free him.

But when his ankle was set back in position at Ipswich Hospital he said it "re-wrote the definition of pain".

He said that Ian had already been out on a test flight that day before taking him out on his first ever such flight, which he had really been enjoying. Yet in 30 seconds the situation the two men faced had drastically changed.

However, looking back Gary said: "I think when your number's up your number's up. You cannot live life just because there's dangers."

Richard Johnson, Ian's father, said it was still early stages and his son was in a lot of shock.

"All I would say is that the progress is as we would expect it to be under the circumstances of what has happened and we have every confidence that he will recover."

Ian, who has clocked up numerous hours of experience in the year he has been flying, was piloting the microlight when the terrifying events unfolded.

While what happened in the crash is still hazy, Ian's father, from Iken, near Saxmundham, said: "I think things happen very quickly in these situations. You're interested in controlling the aircraft. I think it was a freak accident."

He said he had absolute confidence in his son's flying ability not only as his father but also as someone who had been up in the microlight with him.

"Of course it is one of those situations which is a combination of factors due to circumstances beyond one's control."

He said that it looked as if a "freak wind" had pulled the tiny aircraft over and into the field and his son was "extremely lucky" to be on the road to recovery.

He said: "He is a young man and a strong man and I believe he will make a full recovery."

Amazingly Ian has no broken bones but his body is inflamed and he has to wear a neck brace and keep still while he is given specialist medication.

His father added: "I hope other people will read the articles who may or may not be flying and it will be a reminder of the dangers of participating in these sorts of sports."

Mr Johnson's wife, Candy, said: ''He has no broken bones or anything and he is going to be fine. We are very lucky.''

Meanwhile, Ronald and Kathleen Ashford, of Linden Road, Aldeburgh, spoke of their shock after learning their son, Gary, and son-in-law Ian, had been involved in the accident.

"When we got the news we were in a terrible state. We thought he was dead," said Mr Ashford senior.

It was the first time their son, who works in computers, had been up in a microlight, they said.

"They were very lucky," said Mrs Ashford. "We didn't know what to expect when we got there."

"Had it been harder ground and higher up, they would have had it. We are very relieved."

Ian Johnson is a member of the Oxfordshire-based British Microlight Aircraft Association and the group was informed of his accident by the government's air accident investigation branch.

The branch is now carrying out an investigation and the wreckage has been taken away from the field where it crashed in Newbourne Road.

A report into the cause of the accident will be published by investigators when they have completed their inquiry. This could take anything from a few days to several weeks.

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