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1972: Prince William killed in plane crash

Prince William of Gloucester has been killed after his light aircraft crashed and burst into flames.

The prince was taking part in an air race near Wolverhampton in the west Midlands.

His plane, a yellow and white Piper Cherokee Arrow, banked sharply soon after take off, hit a tree and plunged to the ground.

Prince William, 30, and his co-pilot, Vyrell Mitchell, were trapped in the wreckage.

Three boys who tried to reach them were beaten back by the flames.

One of them, Derek Perton, described their frantic rescue attempts.

"We tried to break into the plane's doors and then tried to break it in half by pulling at the tail.

"But it was no good, we had to go back because of the heat," he said.


Firemen arrived on the scene a few minutes later but were unable to get near because of the heat of the blaze.

Prince William, a bachelor, was ninth in line to the throne.

He was the eldest son of the Queen's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester.

The Queen has called off a visit to the Olympic Games and ordered family mourning until Prince William's funeral.

Princess Anne has also cancelled her plans to travel to the Olympics and the Duke of Edinburgh, who is already in Munich, will return for the funeral.

The Prime Minister, Edward Heath, has sent messages of condolence to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Queen.

Government air safety experts have begun an investigation into the crash.

A crowd of about 30,000 people were watching the race at Half Penny Green Airfield.

The race's chief steward, Beverley Snook, has appealed to amateur photographers to submit any cine film and pictures of the accident to investigators.

In Context
Investigators found no evidence of mechanical failure in the remains of Prince William's aircraft.

It was speculated that pilot error was to blame for the crash.

Prince William's interest in flying had begun when he was at Cambridge University where he joined the flying club.

He was also a keen balloonist and enjoyed skiing and scuba diving.

Prince William was buried at Frogmore, the royal burial ground at Windsor Castle.

In May his uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated from the throne in 1936, had also been buried there.

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