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Sunday, 25 February, 2001, 15:07 GMT
Bodies found at aircraft crash site

Two bodies have been found at the crash site of a light aircraft in the Scottish Highlands.

The bodies are thought to be two Scottish businessmen who were on board the Cessna 152 which went missing in December.

Robert MacLean, 36, and Ewan Spalding, 39, took off from Dalcross airport near Inverness last December but their flight, bound for Benbecula, never arrived.

After extensive searches the hunt for their aircraft was called off.

But it was relaunched at Liatach in Torridon on Saturday after a hillwalker spotted debris in the snow.

Trish MacLean
Trish MacLean's husband was on a business trip

The search was resumed on Sunday and police have confirmed that two bodies have been found.

Northern Constabulary say they will not be easy to identify - but it is expected they will be confirmed as the pilot of the Cessna 152 and his passenger.

The Air Accident Investigation Bureau will be making further enquiries into the incident.

The Cessna 125 disappeared somewhere west of Dingwall on 13 December.

Cessna 152
The Cessna 152 took off on 13 December

Mr Spalding from Dingwall was the pilot of the plane which also carried fellow company director Mr MacLean, from Marybank near Dingwall.

The men were heading for a business meeting in the Western Isles.

A massive search was launched, with mountain rescuers scouring a vast area of the West Highlands.

A Royal Air Force surveillance aircraft joined helicopters from Kinloss, using night vision equipment in the hope they could detect some sign of the plane.

Aircraft wreckage

At one point earthquake specialists were drafted in to study seismological charts of the area to look for some sign of a sudden impact.

And Mr MacLean's wife Trish launched appeals for the public's help, asking walkers and climbers on the hills to provide vital clues.

Finally, on Friday a hillwalker contacted the police after stumbling across pieces of what appeared to be aircraft wreckage in the Wester Ross area.

Mountain rescue teams set out from Torridon at 0900GMT on Saturday.

No positive sightings

Ferocious winds and heavy snowfalls hampered their efforts, but they were able to find some debris and a liferaft which is believed to have belonged to the Cessna.

Radio contact with the aircraft - which only had enough fuel to fly for four hours - was lost 15 minutes after it took off from Inverness Airport.

The pilot did not log a flight route, residents between Dingwall and Ullapool reported no positive sightings and special thermal imaging and reconnaissance equipment could not spot anything.

Police think that the plane had flown over the Mr MacLean's workplace at Muir of Ord before getting lost.

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See also:

29 Dec 00 | Scotland
Fresh appeal on missing plane
19 Dec 00 | Scotland
Wife appeals for plane search help
17 Dec 00 | Scotland
RAF holds off plane search
14 Dec 00 | Scotland
Aircraft search stepped up
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