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Light aircraft crash in Essex 'happened immediately after take-off'

A private aircraft which crashed in a field killing both crew members on board had only been in the air for a matter of moments, the plane's owner said.

The Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop aircraft came down in Chigwell, Essex, shortly before 10.20am.

Both people on board were described by the aircraft's owners and operators London Executive Aviation (LEA) as "highly experienced professional pilots".

LEA managing director George Galanopoulos, who visited the site this afternoon, said the flight left nearby Stapleford Airport destined for Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. It contradicts initial claims from the aerodrome, whose spokesman said it had no connection with the doomed flight.

Police are continuing their investigations tonight.

Speaking near the crash site, Detective Chief Inspector Ronnie Egan said: "I can confirm the reports that a light aircraft earlier on today very sadly crashed off Gravel Lane in Chigwell."

"We believe there were two persons on that flight and sadly they have both died. We are working with investigators to establish the route taken and obviously the reason for the flight."

DCI Egan said police were "working with the families of those deceased", but revealed that no details would be released until formal identifications had been made.

LEA said the accident occurred almost immediately after take-off, when the aircraft came down in a field near Stapleford Airport.

The eight-seater aircraft was manufactured in 1981 and had its most recent scheduled maintenance inspection less than four months ago, LEA said .

The captain had extensive experience of flying King Air aircraft and was a Civil Aviation Authority flying examiner.

Mr Galanopoulos said: "Everybody at London Executive Aviation is shocked and deeply saddened by this tragic accident.

"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of our colleagues who lost their lives.

"We will do everything possible to support them at this difficult time. We will also co-operate fully with the authorities charged with investigating the causes of the accident."

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.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said: "Our site is completely safe and unaffected by the crash.

"They were about three fields away, so everyone is safe."

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, who were also 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.

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