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Pilot killed as aircraft crashes near Somerset school

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 30, 2013

  • The scene of the plane crash near Downside School, in Somerset

  • Tessa Pike, 28, who heard the plane crash close to her home at near Downside Abbey, Stratton -on- Fosse

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The pilot of a light aircraft died when his plane crashed in fog yards from homes and an independent school’s playing fields.

The four-seater plane – believed to be a Socata Tobago TB10 – collided with trees in the gardens of Downside Abbey at Stratton-on-the-Fosse near Shepton Mallet, in Somerset, this morning.

Downside School, one of the most well-known Catholic day and boarding schools in the country, with boarding fees of nearly £30,000 adjoins the site, where the plane is thought to have nose-dived.

Children are understood to have been playing outside at the time.

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Police, fire and ambulance services were quickly on the scene. No one on the ground was injured and the pilot was the only person on board.

Supply teacher Mrs Tessa Pike, 28, who lives little more than 100 metres from the crash scene said: “It just sounded like a normal plane going over, but very low. It was pretty close. Then there was a really loud bang. I poked my head out but I couldn’t see anything and couldn’t work out what had happened. There weren’t any flames. It was so foggy you couldn’t really see the trees. Then I heard the ambulance and fire engines.”

Her neighbour, Janet Moon, said: “I thought it was one of those jets that break the sound barrier.”

The Civil Aviation Authority was notified of the tragedy and tonight the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Avon and Somerset Police are investigating.

Chief Inspector John Holt, who is leading the investigation said the aircraft was on a private flight from Somerset to the Home Counties, and added: “I wouldn’t want to speculate on what the cause is.”

Andrew Coombs, who farms the land next to Downside School, said: “It was thick drizzly fog at the time and I heard what sounded like a display stunt team.

“It was a very, very loud intense engine noise like a car door slamming in the distance, then silence.”

In a post on a social media website one user wrote: “Okay a little freaked out now went out to my car at home and I could hear a little plane sounding like it was doing stunts in the air couldn’t see it because of the clouds then on my way in heard a massive BANG then no plane noise :/ might have to go for a drive see if I can see it :/“

It is not the first time that Downside School has been involved in a tragic plane crash.

In 1943 a World War II Hawker Sea Hurricane on a training exercise came down on the cricket pitch, killing nine schoolboys.

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