Tragic glider pilot in death plunge

A GLIDER pilot plunged more than 300 feet to his death yesterday after an afternoon flight went tragically wrong. The man, thought to be in his 70s, took off from the Essex Gliding Club at Ridgewell Airfield in Ashen, on the Essex/Suffolk border.

A GLIDER pilot plunged more than 300 feet to his death yesterday after an afternoon flight went tragically wrong.

The man, thought to be in his 70s, took off from the Essex Gliding Club at Ridgewell Airfield in Ashen, on the Essex/Suffolk border.

It is understood that the glider crashed during the take off procedure as the craft was being winched into the air.

Ambulance crews from Essex and Suffolk both attended at about 1.45pm, along with the East Anglian Service Air Ambulance, but it was clear that the man was already dead and nothing could be done.


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Although the dead pilot has yet to be named, it has emerged he lived in Suffolk.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: "We were called shortly before 2pm after reports that the glider had crashed to the ground.

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"The man has not yet been formally identified but he was being conveyed by a winch system when the cable being used snapped."

He confirmed they were content that there had not been any foul play and said they would now be preserving the scene until the Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) could carry out a full report.

A spokesman for the Essex Gliding Club last night issued a statement regarding the incident, which will now be investigated by both the AAIB and the police.

"On 18 September 2005, at approximately 13.40, a DG600 glider crashed while on a local flight from the Essex Gliding Club site at Ridgewell Airfield, Ashen, Essex," he said.

"The solo pilot, who was a club member, sustained fatal injuries. The incident is currently under investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Board (AAIB) of the Department for Transport and by the local police.

"At present, there is no indication as to the cause of the accident and further details will not be available until released by the AAIB or the police.

"The pilot's name cannot be released until close next-of-kin have been informed."

News of the tragic accident sent shockwaves through the area, with community leaders in nearby Haverhill describing the crash as "sad and unfortunate."

Phillip French, who serves the Cangle Division on Suffolk County Council, said: "There have been gliders flying out of there for many years and as far as I know, this is the first accident they have had at the airfield. They do have a good safety record at Ridgewell.

"It is sad and unfortunate that an accident has happened and that it has been fatal. People's thoughts will be with the pilot's family. This is going to hit them hard."

David Finch, Essex county councillor for the Hedingham division, which includes Ashen,

said he was also saddened to hear of the accident.

"I would like to express my deep regrets that there has been an accident there and that someone has lost their life through the pursuit of a hobby," he said.

"Our thoughts are with the bereaved relatives at this time."

In Ridgewell, villagers last night also spoke of their shock. One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "This is a very close-knit community and everybody who has heard about the accident has been very shocked. 

"People are also concerned for the man's family – to lose someone in this way must be awful.

"The gliders have always been a popular sight in the village so it is terrible for something like this to happen."

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