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Eyewitness Paul Layland
"It was absolutely horrifying"
 real 56k

Sunday, 3 June, 2001, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
Air show continues despite crash
A De Havilland Vampire jet
A De Havilland Vampire jet similar to the one that crashed
The Biggin Hill air show is continuing on Sunday despite the death of two men in a fighter plane which crashed in front of horrified onlookers.

The De Havilland Vampire was halfway through the day's final display with a Vixen plane on Saturday when it spiralled out of control and crashed in a ball of flames.

It just fell out of the sky

Air show spokesman Nick Smith

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has launched an inquiry into the accident, which happened near Bromley in Kent.

The men killed in the crash have been named as Sir Ken Hayr from Avon and Jonathan Kerr from Bournemouth.

It was decided that the second day of the international air fair - which is now in its 39th year and attracts around 35,000 people - would go ahead after members of the dead men's team were consulted.

The 1950s former Swiss air force trainer jet had flown four times over the crowd before trying to turn when it corkscrewed twice before plummeting from the sky into a ridge.

'Sound like thunder'

The crash was followed by a ball of fire and a sound "louder than thunder", eyewitnesses said.

The plane came down around 100 yards from a row of terraced houses, showering some gardens with debris.

The crash happened at around 1810BST on Saturday about a mile and a half from the packed Kent airfield.

A man who witnessed the crash suffered shock but declined medical treatment.

The crash filmed on amateur video
The crash was caught on amateur video

Nobody else was injured, and police have yet to release the names of the two who died.

Air show spokesman Nick Smith said: "I can think of no other way to describe it other than it just fell out of the sky.

"At this stage I would not be prepared to comment on a possible cause of the crash."

Mr Smith added that the Vampire was owned by the De Havilland group.

The Vampire was a 1950s fighter trainer aircraft which had been restored.

James Downing, 17, from Crowborough, East Sussex, said he saw the Vampire corkscrew twice before it disappeared from sight.

He then saw a huge ball of fire leap into the air and heard a sound which he said was louder than "thunder".

Earlier incident

He said: "As the Vampire and the Vixen turned around, the Vixen pulled away and the Vampire corkscrewed down behind the ridge.

"I didn't see anything until I saw the fireball go up in the air.

"I couldn't see anybody walking out of that alive."

Earlier in the day the show had been disrupted when a Venom jet, due to take part in the same display as the Vampire, became stranded on the runway.

The undercarriage of the plane is thought to have collapsed on landing or failed to operate. The pilot was not injured.

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02 Jun 01 | UK
Two die at air show
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