Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Popham air crash deaths: Father told son to 'brace'

Popham airfield Image copyright Paul King/Home Counties Press Agency
Image caption The aircraft came down in Blackwood Forest, south of the A303, near Popham airfield

A father told his young son to "brace" moments before the aircraft he was flying crashed into trees, killing him and his wife, an inquest has heard.

Lewis and Sally Tonkinson died when their Alpi Pioneer came down in Blackwood Forest, near Popham airfield in Hampshire.

Their six-year-old son, George, was seriously injured but survived.

Jurors concluded the pilot encountered poor weather conditions and a technical problem with the aircraft engine.

Evidence suggested a problem with the turbo charger meant there was a "catastrophic engine failure" when the pilot applied full throttle which sent the plane plummeting towards the ground.

'Not a chancer'

The inquest heard the family, from Cookhill in Worcestershire, had been en route from Bembridge on the Isle of Wight to Bidford near Evesham on 3 January 2015 when the weather deteriorated.

Scott Wilson, Air Accident Investigations Branch (AAIB) inspector, said the couple's son described how his father ordered him to adopt the brace position "which told me the pilot was aware that they were in difficulties and were going to crash".

Mr Wilson said while visibility was "acceptable" at Bembridge, the weather deteriorated as the plane moved north.

He added he believed the pilot was "aiming to be flying into this [Popham] runway and then realised he was lower than he wanted to be at that point, and added power."

Image caption Fire crews, police and ambulance were called to the scene near Popham airfield in January 2015

Nine jury members took less than half an hour to return a narrative verdict, as directed by coroner for North East Hampshire, Andrew Bradley.

Reading out the verdict, he said: "In the course of attempts to land at Popham airfield in Hampshire, the engine seized and lost power, then collided with trees and crashed into the ground."

Family friend Nina Cooper was the last person to see the Tonkinsons alive after driving them to Bembridge.

She said Mr Tonkinson was "not a chancer or someone who would take risks to harm his family".

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