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Witnesses say crashed aircraft had been attempting somersault

Witnesses described how the training aircraft had been attempting a somersault before going down. Photo: Essex County Fire & Rescue Service

A pilot and his passenger were killed when their light aircraft burst into flames as it crashed into a field in Essex.

The two men were travelling in a Yak 52 plane when they got into difficulties at around 2.55pm after flying out of North Weald airfield in Essex.

Witnesses described how the training aircraft had been attempting a somersault before going down in a rural area between Ongar and Writtle, near Chelmsford.

Sam Gildersleeve, from Ongar, said he was having lunch with friends when he saw the plane flying low close to the A414 near Cooksmill Green.

Mr Gildersleeve told the BBC: "At this point we all looked at the sky and the plane attempted to do a somersault unsuccessfully, we heard a popping sound and noticed the plane did not re-emerge."

"We then noticed smoke coming from the site in the field where the plane had crashed. Shortly after the emergency services appeared."

– Sam Gildersleeve
The Yakovlev Yak 52 is a two-seater propeller aircraft first built in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Credit: Essex County Fire & Rescue Service

The aircraft was "completely alight" when firefighters arrived at the scene near Cooksmill Green, Essex Fire and Rescue Service said.

A spokesman said: "On arrival the incident commander reported that the plane was completely alight. Crews used foam and had extinguished the fire by 3.55pm."

A police spokeswoman said: "Emergency services rushed to the scene and fire crews extinguished the fire caused when the plane crashed. Two men, a pilot and his passenger - both from Essex - were on board. The plane had flown out from North Weald airfield."

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