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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 June, 2003, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Pilot killed in air show crash
The replica plane just after it disintegrated
The plane's wing appeared to break up
A pilot was killed at an air show after the wing of his plane broke up.

The replica of the Spirit of St Louis plunged 100 feet to the ground shortly after taking off in front of an 8,000-strong audience at the Coventry Classic Airshow.

It came down away from the shocked crowd at Baginton airport near Coventry and none of the spectators was injured.

The Swedish pilot, 59-year-old Pierre Hollander, who built the plane himself, was flown by air ambulance to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, but later died from his injuries.

David Eales, of Air Atlantique which runs the two-day event, said Mr Hollander's family had been informed of the tragedy.

The whole wing folded upwards and as that happened the whole aircraft came falling down
Eyewitness Paul Middleton
Me Eales said: "Our thoughts are with his wife and family. Air Atlantique is arranging for them to be flown to the UK."

The incident was captured by an off-duty BBC cameraman.

"From what we can see from film and video, the left-hand wing had suffered a failure. It folded back on itself," Mr Eales said.

Eyewitness Paul Middleton, 37, of Colchester, Essex, said: "There were a lot of shocked adults and children.

"It started to break up about two minutes after take off. The structure just seemed to give way and disintegrate.

"The whole wing folded upwards and as that happened the whole aircraft came falling down.

Charles A Lindbergh in front of The Spirit of St Louis in New York, May 1927, before his historic solo flight to Paris
The plane was a replica of Charles A Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis

"People just started saying 'oh my God' and then they went silent. Everyone was just standing around."

The displays of vintage and classic planes continued following a break after the crash and the event is continuing on Sunday.

An inquiry into the incident by air accident investigators has started.

Another person was killed at the air show in 1988, when a Gloster Meteor T7 - a 1940s twin jet aircraft - crashed due to pilot error.

In a separate incident on Saturday before the crash, bomb squad experts blew up a car which drove on to the airfield and into a perimeter fence.

A 33-year-old man from Coventry was subsequently arrested and taken to Leamington Spa police station for questioning.

A police spokeswoman said the car had been detonated as a precaution and that there had been no threat to spectators.

The Spirit of St Louis was the plane in which Charles Lindbergh made the first non-stop solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927.

Passenger hurt in plane crash
31 May 03  |  Norfolk

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