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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 19:41 GMT
Family wins 5m plane crash claim
Mr Paton tried to avoid an RAF Sea King helicopter taking off
The family of a man who died in a plane crash at RAF St Mawgan has won a 5m payout from the Ministry of Defence.

Banker Hugh Paton, 43, was piloting a Cessna plane when it nose-dived into the runway on 23 June 2001.

Mr Paton's widow Julia, 49, and two daughters from Highgate, London, blamed an RAF Sea King helicopter for manoeuvring too close by.

The MoD denies liability, but reached a settlement ahead of a High Court claim for damages due to start next week.

'Life-threatening situation'

The family had taken off on the morning of the accident from Elstree airfield in Hertfordshire and flew to Cornwall where Mr Paton was intending to treat the family to lunch at a Padstow restaurant.

The weather was fine and the visibility good when Mr Paton was given clearance to land at St Mawgan.

However, just as the Cessna was about to touch down, the Sea King, which had just taken off, suddenly loomed into view.

In his written argument to the court, the family's counsel, Mr Charles Haddon-Cave QC, said the helicopter "made as if to cross the runway" directly in the Cessna's path and Mr Paton "had to deal with an immediate and life-threatening situation".

Mr Paton took emergency-avoiding action but lost stability after the Cessna passed through a wake vortex from the helicopter's powerful rotors and the light aircraft crashed just beside the runway.

'Universal admiration'

He freed his wife Julia and daughters Elizabeth and Charlotte, but died of burns injuries nine days later.

Mr Haddon-Cave described Mr Paton as "a highly intelligent and talented banker with an immaculate track record" who had studied law at University College London and Cambridge - where he was awarded a first class degree.

He qualified as a barrister and taught as a don at Cambridge for four years before joining J.P Morgan in 1983 and "rising steadily" to become a managing director in 1994.

Mrs Paton's solicitor, Julian Chamberlayne, said the award had been a "bitter-sweet" moment for her.


"On one side is the compensation, on the other is the death of her husband," he said.

"This brings to an end a chapter in her life, but she feels angry that she has had to fight so hard for it.

"It should not have been a fight. It should have been straightforward, and she genuinely feels aggrieved that she has had to go to these lengths, at some cost and risk to herself to get a result in the last working day before the court date.

"But she is a tough-minded character and she always felt that her husband's death was not his fault."

The MoD confirmed the settlement, but declined to comment.

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