Plane narrowly missed tower in school grounds before fatal crash

Tarpaulin covering crash site
Image caption The light aircraft crashed in the grounds of Downside Abbey last September

A light aircraft narrowly missed a tower in school grounds moments before a fatal crash, a report found.

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch report shows the pilot came within 98ft (30m) of Downside Abbey near Radstock.

Investigators say the pilot took action to avoid the tower but crashed in a wooded area nearby shortly afterwards. It was foggy at the time.

The pilot was flying from Taunton to an airfield near Luton when the crash happened on 30 September last year.

Witnesses carrying out work to the abbey roof said they saw the plane heading directly towards the tower, well below its height of 166ft (50m).

Moments later the 66-year-old pilot began an avoiding manoeuvre in which the plane pitched nose-up and rolled to the right.

The witnesses heard the sound of the crash, in the grounds of Downside School at Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Somerset, soon afterwards.

The report says the avoiding manoeuvre "placed the aircraft in an unusual attitude at low height and in very poor visibility, a situation the pilot had neither the training nor experience from which to recover".

Speaking just after the crash, Ch Insp John Holt, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: "The indications are that the pilot was almost certainly killed on impact."

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