Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Crash pilots over drink-fly limit

John Smith
Councillor John Smith was said to have been at the controls

A father and daughter were both above the legal drink-fly limit when the aircraft they were piloting crashed and killed them, an inquest has heard.

John Smith, 56, his wife Angela, 55, and 25-year-old daughter Jacqueline, all died in the crash on farmland in the west Highlands in April 2007.

A farmer found the wreckage 24-hours after the crash at Loch Scammadale.

Essex coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray recorded accidental death verdicts at the inquest in Chelmsford, Essex.

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found Mr Smith, a member of Maldon District Council, was five times above the alcohol limit for flying an aircraft, at the time of the tragedy.

His daughter, who had been sitting in the co-pilot position, was found to be more than twice the limit.

The legal limit for flying is 20mg of alcohol per 100ml compared with the legal limit for drinking and driving of 80mg per 100ml of blood.

Health check missed

The hearing heard the family, from Burnham-on-Crouch, had been on holiday in Scotland and were returning to England when the aircraft crashed in cloudy conditions.

Mr Smith had not been trained to fly in such conditions and equipment to indicate flying height on the 29-year-old aircraft had failed, according to the AAIB report.

The inquest heard Mr Smith also had a history of coronary artery disease and kidney problems and had not been medically cleared to fly.

He had been required to have annual health checks but had not done so since November 2005.

The coroner told Mr and Mrs Smith's elder daughter Christina, who is in her late 20s: "Words are really quite inadequate.

"But I would like to assure you of the court's sympathy on the loss of both your parents and your sister and I do hope that this expression of sympathy will be passed on to your brother, who I understand did not feel able to come to the inquest.

"I do hope you will be able to remember all the positive and happy memories you have of them and I wish you well."

Post-mortem examinations revealed all three family members died from multiple injuries.

Mr Smith had 99 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood in his system - the legal limt for flying is 20mg per 100ml - and his daughter was found to have 48mg per 100ml.

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