Inquiry into fatal glider crash

THE BODY of a glider pilot who sustained multiple injuries after plummeting 300 feet to his death has still not been formally identified, more than 36 hours after the accident.

THE BODY of a glider pilot who sustained multiple injuries after plummeting 300 feet to his death has still not been formally identified, more than 36 hours after the accident.

It is hoped the pensioner, 74, who lived locally and was killed on Sunday when his DG600 machine crashed after taking off from an airfield near Haverhill, may be named later today after a post mortem has taken place.

Forensic experts and investigators from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) spent yesterday examining the mangled wreckage of the glider in situ at the Essex Gliding Club, based at Ridgewell Airfield at Ashen, on Suffolk's border with Essex.

But, in the light of the tragedy, officials from the sport's governing body last night declared the hobby safe, saying fatal accidents are rare.

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“Approximately half a million glider flights take place every year in the UK, and Sunday's fatal accident was the first in UK gliding this year,” said Keith Auchterlonie, communications officer for the British Gliding Association (BGA).

“In a 10 year average, we would expect to experience roughly four fatalities per annum.

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“Gliding is not dangerous but adventurous and, as with any adventurous sport, there is an element of risk involved.

“It is on a level with something like horseriding or mountaineering.

“But the fact it is an adventurous sport actually helps to make it safer as everyone is always working to minimise the risk.

“The choice everyone makes is whether the risk is outweighed by the rewards of gliding.”

Last month, 42-year-old Neil Lawson, of Basingstoke, was killed when a glider collided with him as he watched a championship in Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire.

And in 1998, two fatal accidents happened in the space of just one month over East Anglia's skies.

Edward Lyaskowski, 60, from Surrey, died when his glider plunged 1,000 feet into woodland in Cavenham, near Mildenhall, following a mid-air collision and Stephen Sanville, a 72-year-old retired company director, was killed in a crash at Great Saxham, near Bury St Edmunds.

However, Mr Auchterlonie said fliers undergo high levels of training prior to taking to the skies, while ongoing assessment also takes place once qualified.

“Before flying solo, every pilot has to complete the BGA syllabus, and nobody is allowed to fly solo until they have proven they are able to cope with whatever may come up,” he added.

“Once a pilot flies solo, there is an ongoing process of checking flights to ensure he or she maintains that level of competence.”

A spokesman for Essex Police confirmed AAIB officials were on site yesterday, and said the pilot was a man in his mid 70s from the local area.

“It is anticipated a post mortem examination will take place on Tuesday (today) and it is hoped he will be formally identified,” she said. “The AAIB is still at the site investigating.”

And a spokesman for the AAIB said investigators would produce a report into the incident within the next few months.

“We will examine the wreckage and talk to people who were on the ground when the glider took off, look at weather patterns and anything else which could have contributed to the accident,” he said.

“We will then make recommendations to improve safety if need be.”

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