March 31, 2008 / 5:51 AM / 11 years ago

Car racing stars dead in plane crash

LONDON (Reuters) - Two former saloon car racing stars died when their private jet crashed into a housing estate at the weekend, police said on Monday, as the operation began to remove five bodies from the wreckage.

Richard Lloyd (L) and David Leslie in a combination image. Two former saloon car racing stars died when their private jet crashed into a housing estate at the weekend, police said on Monday, as the operation began to remove five bodies from the wreckage. REUTERS/British Touring Car Championship/EUROSPORT Television/Handout

David Leslie, 54, and Richard Lloyd, 63, the boss of Apex Motorsport, died when their Cessna Citation jet crashed into an empty house on the edge of the estate at Biggin Hill, Kent, shortly after take-off on Sunday.

There were no casualties on the ground.

The sons of the couple whose house was destroyed said there could have been more casualties if the crash had happened an hour earlier.

“There would have been no chance if they had been in the property, and on a normal Sunday afternoon they would have been about,” Peter Hale said.

“If it had been an hour earlier, my mother, brother and his partner would have been inside the house.”

Police said investigators from the United States and Canada had flown in to help in the Air Accident Investigation Branch inquiry, especially with regards the type of plane involved.

The bodies of the two pilots had been removed from the wreckage, and it was hoped the remaining bodies would be taken away later on Monday.

Scottish-born Leslie, a father-of-two, was a former prominent touring car racer and a commentator on the Eurosport television network.

Lloyd, a father-of-three, was a former British Saloon Car champion and engineer who was part of a three-man team that came second in the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in 1985.

A team he later managed won the endurance race in 2003, racing officials said.

Former racing driver, Sir Stirling Moss, drove for Lloyd in the early 1960s after his Formula One career ended.

“It is an absolute tragedy,” the 78 year-old told Reuters on Monday. “We have lost a guy who was a very good driver, a nice person and a very good engineer.”

The other victims have not been named by police.

Media reports however, named the pilot as Mike Roberts, of Effingham, Surrey, who was said to be a director of Flight Consultancy Services, based at Biggin Hill.

Chief Superintendent Charles Griggs told reporters at the scene: “Obviously the scene itself is relatively dangerous. It is a slow and painstaking recovery.”

Slideshow (15 Images)

He warned some residents they might not be able to return to their homes until later this week.

Biggin Hill airfield said the jet had just taken off when the pilot made an emergency call reporting difficulties and asking for permission to land again.

Local residents hailed the pilot as a hero after he apparently tried to miss the houses and land in a wood as the plane lost height with its nose up and engines screaming.

Additional reporting by Avril Ormsby and Jennifer Hill. Editing by Stephen Addison

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