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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Aircraft crash victims identified
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The aircraft crashed in the Scottish countryside on Monday
The three people killed in a light aircraft crash were a councillor, his wife and daughter from Essex.

John Smith and his family died when their aircraft crashed on farmland near Oban in the west of Scotland.

Mr Smith lived with wife Angela and grown-up daughter Jacqueline in Burnham-on-Crouch.

As investigators tried to establish the cause of Monday's crash, the farmer who discovered the wreckage with his son said he encountered a "tragic" scene.

The plane carrying the family, which took off from Oban on Monday morning before being lost from radar screens, was heading for an airfield in Essex.

Wreckage, which was spread over a 400m area above Loch Scammadale, was found by sheep farmer Angus McFadyen and his son at 1525 BST on Tuesday.

I have never seen this kind of thing before but I knew it was serious and I had to contact the police
Angus McFadyen
Sheep farmer

Mr McFadyen said: "I was with my son checking the sheep yesterday afternoon when he told me he had come across what he thought was the wreckage of a plane.

"When I saw it, I knew it was a plane as I recognised the fuselage.

"I have never seen this kind of thing before but I knew it was serious and I had to contact the police.

"It is not something you want to see, it is tragic and I am so sorry it has happened."

Mr Smith had been a Conservative member of Maldon District Council since the early 1990s and was understood to have been at the controls of the aircraft.

Tom Kelly, a colleague on the council, said: "I just can't believe this has happened.

"He was a very experienced pilot. They often went on breaks."

Council leader Alan Cheshire said: "We are absolutely devastated."

Chief Inspector Ciorstan Shearer of Strathclyde Police said the crashed plane was thought to be a PA28 Piper Arrow 3 light aircraft.

Councillor John Smith, Maldon District Council
Councillor Smith was believed to have been at the controls

She said: "The inquiry is very much at the initial stages because it's such a rural setting.

"The priority for Strathclyde Police is to find out exactly what has happened here.

"Mountain rescue officers, both police and RAF, have been securing the site all day bringing in the necessary equipment to allow investigating officers access to the area to conduct their enquiries which will be ongoing for some time."

She added that members of her team were liaising with staff from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, who are helping to direct the inquiry.

The investigation was due to be scaled down during the hours of darkness on Wednesday and resume on Thursday morning.

'Track flights'

The plane had taken off from Connell Airfield at 1135 BST on Monday, heading for Andrewsfield, Great Saling, in Essex, via Blackpool.

It was more than 24 hours before wreckage of the aircraft was discovered.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said there was no legal requirement for a private pilot to file a flight plan unless they were going abroad or crossing a large expanse of water.

He added: "A big international airfield can track flights and launch a search and rescue if necessary.

"However, a private pilot may be leaving from a small airstrip or even a patch of land in a farmer's field.

"No-one may be aware they have left, let alone not arrived at their destination. There is no legal requirement to notify your destination and therefore there may be no-one to initiate an overdue action."

Why the crash investigators are keen to search the area

Three feared dead in plane crash
10 Apr 07 |  Glasgow and West

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