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Tributes to crewmen who died in Chigwell light aircraft crash

The crewmen who died in a light aircraft crash have been remembered as fun-loving family men who had been living out their boyhood dreams by becoming pilots.

Captain Robert Bull, 40, and First Officer Francis Simmonds, 46, died when their Beechcraft King Air 200, which was sometimes used by West Ham United chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold, crashed in a field in Chigwell, Essex, on Saturday.

In a statement released by Essex Police, Mr Simmonds's family said: "Becoming a pilot was Francis' boyhood dream and he loved every day of his job. His death leaves a gaping hole in our hearts and lives."

He lived in Luton, Bedfordshire, and was a devoted husband and father to a seven-year-old son, they said.

Mr Bull's family, who live in Hornchurch, Essex, also remembered him as a devoted father to his daughter.

They said: "He always put a smile on everyone's face and enjoyed sharing a good joke. Rob would always go out of his way to help people and nothing was too much trouble for him. He had been a pilot since 2003 and it was what he had always wanted to do.

"As an experienced pilot he worked hard to constantly improve his skills and had recently been awarded a captaincy. He was the glue that held everyone together and his family and friends are devastated by our loss. He will be sorely missed by everyone that knew him."

The Air Accidents Investigation Board is investigating the incident.

Mr Sullivan and Mr Gold had said they had been lucky not to have been on board.

They 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 plane which crashed.

Mr Sullivan has 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."

There was a last-minute change of plans when they arrived at the airport but found it was closed.

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.

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