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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Air show victims hit by 'vortex'
Former RAF technician Jim Kerr
Co-pilot Jim Kerr died in the air crash
A south Wales man died when the vintage plane he was in nose-dived out of control after it was sucked into a powerful air vortex by a bigger jet, an inquest has heard.

The plane - a restored 1956 De Havilland Vampire fighter trainer - crashed near the end of the first day of the Biggin Hill air show in Kent last June.

His last flight with Ken would have been such a proud experience for him to fly with a man he admired and respected

Julie Holmes

The jury returned verdicts of accidental death at the inquest in Croydon, Surrey into the deaths of co-pilot Jim Kerr, 32, and Sir Kenneth Hayr, 66, who was at the controls when the plane crashed last June.

Earlier, Captain David Miller of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said a larger Sea Vixen plane banking sharply in front of the Vampire jet during the final display of the day, caused the aircraft to flip over.

Thousands of spectators watched as the plane nose-dived to the ground, landing in a nearby field on the first day of last summer's international air event.

Video footage of the crash showed how Sir Kenneth, a retired RAF Air Marshall from Warwickshire, had fought without success to bring the plane out of the dive in the five seconds before it hit the ground.

The inquest heard Mr Kerr, who was originally from Flintshire but had living for some time in Swansea, was a recognised authority on Vampires.

He had been rebuilding the planes since his teens, and had met Sir Kenneth Hayr through visits to air shows.

Crash at Biggin Hill air show in which a lone pilot died
A lone pilot died in a second crash at the show

"His last flight with Ken would have been such a proud experience for him to fly with a man he admired and he respected," Mr Kerr's sister Julie Holmes told the hearing.

"He lived for his passion and died living it. He will never be forgotten because he touched so many lives."

Sir Kenneth Hayr's son Julian told the inquest that his father had a distinguished career with the RAF.

He was the first Harrier jump jet squadron leader and at one time was in charge of air safety for the RAF.

After his retirement in 1993, Sir Kenneth spent much of his time flying at air shows.

"He lived for flying," said Mr Hayr. "It's all he knew."

Organisers of the show decided to continue the event after the fatal crash but abandoned it the next day when another crash occurred - killing the lone pilot.

Where I Live, South West Wales
See also:

14 May 02 | Wales
Inquest into air show crash
02 Jun 01 | UK
Two die at air show
03 Jun 01 | UK
Timeline: Air show crashes
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