Page last updated at 23:12 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

Fatal crash plane hits rail line

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Footage of the scene of the crash

At least two people died when their light aircraft crashed into overhead power lines on the West Coast Main Line in Staffordshire.

The single-engine plane came down where two tracks fork in Little Haywood, near Stafford, just before 1200 GMT.

The pilot has been named as Alan Matthews, who had 19 years' experience of flying.

A British Transport Police spokesman said officers could not rule out finding more bodies at the crash site.

Part of the major rail route is closed, disrupting travel between London Euston, the North West and Scotland.

Recovery operations are taking place but the line is not expected to be fully restored this weekend, the spokesman said.

Network Rail said all services through the area would be suspended until Saturday at the earliest.

We ran into the garden and just saw something drop from the sky
Eyewitness Janet Hemmings

Friday evening rush hour services from London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street, Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central were cancelled.

Virgin Trains said passengers could use alternative services and that diversions were in place.

London Midland, which runs trains from Birmingham to Liverpool and from Crewe to London Euston, has suspended all services in the area.

Replacement buses have been set up.

'Black smoke'

Virgin Trains tickets dated for Friday will still be valid on Saturday.

Janet Hemmings, from Crewe, who was visiting her sister at the time, witnessed the crash.

She said: "We just heard a terrible noise, it was just too low to believe it sounded normal.

Crash scene

"Then my husband started shouting, 'I can see it coming down' and we ran into the garden and just saw something drop from the sky.

"There was just a big plume of black smoke and you could see the power cables to the railway line had actually snapped where it had obviously landed on the power cables."

Local resident Gerald Simpkin saw the plane come down and described it as looking like it was performing acrobatics.

He said: "We expected it to come back again but it didn't.

"We did not hear anything. There was no explosion, no smoke. A few minutes later we saw air ambulances arrive. It is tragic."

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: "On arrival crews found the wreckage of a plane between two railway tracks - it had struck the power lines for the railway.

"Sadly there was nothing that could be done and and no-one has been taken to hospital."

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