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Community left shocked as a pilot dies in light aircraft crash

PUBLISHED: 17:11 03 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:41 05 February 2019

Police at a field in Belchamp Walter in the wake of the fatal accident Picture: PAUL GEATER

Police at a field in Belchamp Walter in the wake of the fatal accident Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

The "tragic" death of a man following a light aircraft crash has left a village in shock today.

The accident, involving a Luton Minor which was alight as it landed, happened just before midday and police have confirmed a man in his 50s died at the scene.

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Police gathered outside Belchamp Walter Village Hall in the wake of the accident and will maintain a presence there over coming days.

The parish council for Belchamp Walter, which sits on the Suffolk/Essex border, said: “We offer our condolences to the man’s family.

“Clearly this is a tragedy that this should happen, and on what has been such a glorious day.”

Aaron Hogsbjerg owns the farm where the accident happened and his father is a member of the parish council.

He said: “I went up to the field to drop a vehicle off and saw all of the police.

“There is a runway just along from there and it is well used. There are planes going up and down there all the time, especially on days like today when the weather has been so fantastic. We don’t take much notice of them.”

Mr Hogsbjerg said the landing strip, at Waits Farm, in Bells Road, is owned by a neighbouring farmer and that safety is always paramount there.

“You always see the planes are low as they come in to land but you don’t bat an eyelid, I grew up here so it is just something I am used to seeing.”

He added: “It is terrible that this has happened here.”

The farm is mainly arable with the Hogsbjerg’s farming spring barley, winter barley, wheat, oil seed rape and sugar beet. The farm is also home to a flock of sheep, although they are farmed by someone else.

Gavin Barnes, of the Red Lion in neighbouring Belchamp Otten, said: “We understand it was an accident on landing. Half of Essex Police have been over there.”

Crews from Halstead fire station confirmed there was a problem on landing and said: “We were called to a small aircraft that had crash landed. Sadly one person died at the scene, our thoughts are with their family and friends.”

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service said: “Firefighters were called to assist at the scene and reported on arrival that the aircraft, which landed in an arable field, was alight.

“The fire was extinguished by 12.49pm.”

A spokesman for the Air Accident Investigation Board said: “The AAIB are aware of the incident and has employed a team to investigate.”

The landing strip at Waits Farm is described as being 500m of grass with a slight slope.

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