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"Conditions were good"
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The BBC's Yvette Austin
"The two pilots had little chance of survival"
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Saturday, 8 April, 2000, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Two die in Spitfire crash
Crash scene
Crash experts are trying to discover the cause of the accident
Two pilots were killed when a vintage World War II Spitfire plane crashed and caught fire while trying to land.

Crash experts are trying to find the cause of the accident which saw the fighter plane clip a tree and skid onto Goodwood airfield, West Sussex, just after 0900BST.

It clipped a tree on the boundary of the airfield which knocked it down into a bank

Sussex Police
Fire crews rushed to contain the flames, but were too late to save the men - plane owner, South African Greg McCurragh and Norman Alan Lees, 49, of Copthorne, near Crawley, West Sussex.

The privately-owned, two-seater, Mark 9 Spitfire is thought to have been one of only three of their kind in the world still flying.

Inspector Andy Kille of Sussex Police said: "It made two or three circuits of the airfield and then a successful touch and go landing, two or three more circuits and it then came in for what we presume was its final landing approach.

The plane: Videoed on a previous flight
The plane: Videoed on a previous flight
"It clipped a tree on the boundary of the airfield which knocked it down into a bank - it then skidded across the Goodwood motor racing circuit, which was not in use at the time.

"It came to rest some 50 or 60 yards short of the runway."

He said one of the men died instantly, and the second died very shortly afterwards, before rescuers could release him from the plane.

The men on board did not issue a mayday signal and the cause of the crash is not known.

Second circuit

Firefighters from the airfield fire service said they reached the Spitfire within 30 seconds, and people from Goodwood Flying School rushed to the scene with extinguishers.

Sussex police are tracing the families of those who died, before releasing their names. But one is believed to be very experienced at flying Spitfires.

A team of air accident investigation officers went to investigate.

A Sussex Police spokeswoman said the two bodies had been taken to St Richard's Hospital in Chichester. Post-mortem examinations were due to take place on Monday.

The spokeswoman added that the wreckage of the Spitfire would not be moved until the air accident investigators completed their work, which could take days.

'War birds'

Richard Simpson, keeper of aircraft and exhibitions at the RAF Museum in Hendon said the growth since the Second World War of "war bird" groups - people who restore and keep old combat aircraft - had kept such planes flying.

He said: "This was one of those. Airplanes are built to fly and, as long as it is not the only example of its type in the world, it seems perfectly legitimate to have it fly.

"Though war bird aircraft are 50 or 60 years old, they are in general well-maintained. Inevitably with old pieces of equipment they are more likely to fail but it would be premature to speculate on the cause of the crash."

Aerodrome director Tony Houghton said: "We are obviously deeply upset by this tragic accident and we extend our most sincere sympathy to the families and relatives of the two pilots.

"The Goodwood safety crew reacted instantly but it was not possible to help the aircrew who both died in the accident."

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02 May 98 | UK
Spitfires roar again
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