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Halstead pilot who died in light aircraft crash near Sudbury described as devoted family man

Stuart Penfold, of Halstead, died following a light aircraft crash in Belchamp Walter on February 3, 2019, at the age of 54. Picture supplied by Essex Police. (6981046)
Stuart Penfold, of Halstead, died following a light aircraft crash in Belchamp Walter on February 3, 2019, at the age of 54. Picture supplied by Essex Police. (6981046)

An experienced pilot, who lost his life after a light aircraft collision near Sudbury at the weekend, has been honoured as a devoted family man.

A Luton Minor aircraft crashed on to farmland in Belchamp Walter on Sunday, shortly before 11.50am.

Fire and ambulance crews were at the crash site off Bells Road within minutes, but the aircraft’s lone occupant – 54-year-old Stuart Penfold, of Halstead – was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) attended on Monday morning, and will conduct an inquiry over the coming days to try to determine the circumstances of the incident.

A tribute issued on behalf of the family on Tuesday said: “In loving memory of a devoted, reliable and wonderful husband, father and grandfather.

“A passionate light aircraft flyer and a keen member of Braintree Motorcycle Club, on a journey to his next destination.”

The aircraft was on fire when emergency services arrived, and eight fire crews brought the blaze under control by 12.50pm.

It is understood that Mr Penfold, who had been flying for several years, was preparing to land at an airstrip close to where the crash occurred.

Eyewitness Brian Sullivan said he saw the aircraft from his attic prior to the collision.

“I heard the plane go over, and something told me that something wasn’t quite right,” he told BBC Look East.

“The next thing I heard – boom. That was about a minute or so later.

“I looked out of the window and could see the smoke, so I knew it had gone down.

“I’m wondering if the pilot knew he was in trouble, and avoided our two houses, so he didn’t hit them.”

In addition to his aircraft flying, Mr Penfold was also a motorbike enthusiast, and served as a committee member and membership secretary at the Braintree and District Motorcycle Club.

A statement from the club said: “It’s with a very heavy heart we report that club stalwart Stuart Penfold was tragically killed in a light aeroplane crash at Belchamp Walter. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, Richard, Carol and Helen.

“Stuart put a tremendous amount of work into this club and leaves a massive void we will struggle to fill. RIP our friend.”

Anybody who can help the crash investigation should contact Essex Police on 101, quoting the incident reference number 503 of February 3.


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