Tyne & Wear

Seaham man Andrew Buck killed in French Alps plane crash

Andrew Buck Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Andrew Buck was travelling with a group to Malta

Two British men were killed when two planes crashed in the French Alps.

Andrew Buck, 37, from Seaham in County Durham and an unnamed passenger, 18, were in one aircraft that came down on Wednesday.

The pilot of the second plane, who has also not yet been named, escaped from the wreckage, close to the Italian border, with minor injuries.

The planes were among five that left Eshott Airfield, in Northumberland, on Sunday on their way to Malta.

Mr Buck's father Les said the news had been "gut wrenching", adding that it was a "dark day" for the family.

The aircraft are owned by Purple Aviation, based in Eshott, near Morpeth. The firm has described the deaths as "devastating".

A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said staff were offering assistance to the families of the dead men.

The crash happened over the Maddalena Pass, as the group was travelling in stages to Malta.

Image copyright Sapeurs-pompiers des Alpes de Haute-Provence
Image caption The plane was one of five aircraft that left Northumberland at the weekend

In a post on social media, Les Buck said: "Gut wrenching news that our son Andrew Buck of Seaham Harbour has died in a light aircraft in the French Alps.

"It's been a long dark day. Love you son."

Mr Buck's sister Lisa Crow, who set up a GoFundMe page in the wake of the crash, said: "My parents and I received the incomprehensible news that my little brother Andrew, was tragically killed in an accident while flying over the French Alps.

"My husband Steve and I are beyond grateful for everyone's kind words and support at this time and I know my parents feel the same."

Richard Pike, a director of Purple Aviation and who was part of the organised trip, said everyone involved was "devastated".

'Close friends'

"This was a group of experienced pilots and close friends embarking on the trip of a lifetime, which has been planned over the last year," he said.

"Everyone involved has been devastated by this tragic accident.

"We'd like to pass on our sincere condolences to the families of those who died. We have lost two brilliant friends."

The company dismissed initial reports the planes involved had collided with one another.

"We can confirm that there was no mid-air collision and that the pilot of the first aircraft to crash walked away from the wreckage unharmed after a well executed forced landing," it said in a statement.

"An investigation is now ongoing by French aviation authorities, and they have been provided with the expedition's film footage of the incident to see how events unfolded."

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