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West Ham chairmen fortunate not be on Essex crash plane

Published 04/10/2015

Forensics officers at the scene of a light aircraft crash where two people died in a field off Gravel Lane in Chigwell
Forensics officers at the scene of a light aircraft crash where two people died in a field off Gravel Lane in Chigwell

The chairmen of West Ham United said they were fortunate not to be on the doomed aircraft which crashed in Essex yesterday, killing the two crew on board.

David Sullivan and David Gold had been due to fly from Stapleford Airport to the north east where their team had a Premier League match with Sunderland.

The pair were due to fly on one of the two light aircraft available to them - including the Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop aircraft, which crashed in a field in Chigwell shortly before 10.20am.

A spokesman for the football club confirmed the pair had been due to fly from the airport but had to change their plans when they arrived to find it closed.

Mr Sullivan said: " The aviation company, London Executive Aviation (LEA), have two planes and we have flown on that particular plane about 50 times.

"It was 50/50 whether we got on the plane that crashed or the other one. It's a real shock. My heart goes out to the families of the pilots, it's very, very sad.

"When we arrived at the airport it was already closed off because of the crash and we had to divert to Stansted to get a flight to Newcastle to get to the Sunderland game. We were a bit late for the match.

"We used that airline all the time and they are really excellent."

Investigations are continuing into how the aircraft crashed only moments after take-off.

Both people on board were described by LEA as "highly-experienced professional pilots".

Witnesses reported hearing a "loud bang" and "the ground shaking" as the eight-seater aircraft came down a short distance away from where members of the Girl Guides were camping.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, who were called to the scene, said the aircraft was "100% alight" when they arrived.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has sent a team to investigate the incident.

Detective chief inspector Stephen Jennings, of Essex Police, said: "We are working together with the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Essex Coroner's Office.

"The recovery and forensic investigations will take some time and we appreciate the patience of the local landowners and residents whilst this work continues.

"Our thoughts are with the families of those who died and we offer our deepest sympathies to them."

LEA confirmed Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold were due to fly with the company on Saturday morning, but on a different aircraft than the one involved in the accident.

Managing director George Galanopoulos said: "The airfield was closed immediately following the accident, which is why Mr Sullivan's party was unable to depart as intended.

"The aircraft that came down would clearly not have departed with only crew if it was due to be carrying passengers."

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