Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Saturday, 3 January 2009

Three dead in railway plane crash

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Footage of plane crash scene

Three people died when a light aircraft crashed into overhead power lines on the West Coast Main Line, police said.

Pilot Alan Matthews, 59, of Walsall, West Midlands, was killed in the crash near Little Haywood, Staffordshire.

Nick and Emma O'Brien, a married couple with two children, also died, British Transport Police (BTP) confirmed.

The line was closed following Friday's crash and is not expected to reopen until Monday delaying trains from London to the North West and Scotland.

It was initially believed that two people were in the aircraft but BTP earlier confirmed on Saturday that a third person on board had also been killed.

Trains delayed

The remains of the aircraft will be removed from the scene on Saturday, the BTP said.

Inspectors from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch have been examining the scene.

Crashed plane 'just nose down'

The aircraft was registered to Mr Matthews.

His wife Jenny confirmed the 59-year-old was piloting the light aircraft that crashed shortly before 1200 GMT.

Mr Matthews is registered as company director of Sittles Farm Flying Club, near Lichfield in Staffordshire.

His wife said he had 19 years flying experience and it was thought he had arranged to go flying with a work colleague and possibly another person.

Local resident Derek Higgott, who lives close to the crash scene, said: "I heard the plane, I looked up, and suddenly it just turned and went straight down like a stunt plane.

"There was a huge thud and black smoke. You could feel the vibration from it and a huge flock of birds all took off."

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Police said it was expected post-mortem examinations would be carried out on Sunday.

All rail services on the West Coast Mainline between Rugby and Stafford remained suspended.

A Network Rail spokesman said engineers had been unable to get onto the site because of the investigation, but were hoping to start work on Saturday afternoon.

"It's probably about a day's work and we hope to finish by Sunday evening. It should be clear for Monday morning commuters," he said.

There will be a reduced service and delays of up to 60 minutes on Virgin Trains services between London and north-west England which are being diverted via Coventry and will not call at stations between Nuneaton and Stafford.

On local services run by London Midland there is a replacement bus service calling at stations between Stafford and Rugby, with up to an extra hour added to journey times.



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