One killed and another in ‘serious but stable’ condition after Hardwick plane crash
A man has been killed and another has been injured after a Second World War aircraft crashed and burst into flames in Hardwick on Sunday.
A passenger, in his 80s, died at the scene, while the pilot, Maurice Hammond, 60, remains in a serious but stable condition at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
Emergency services were called to the field at 3.38pm, close to the former RAF Hardwick base, following reports of a crash landing.
It is thought the plane, a vintage P-51D Mustang, was on fire when fire crews first arrived, who were able to rescue Mr Hammond.
He is known for starring in TV series Plane Resurrection.
The spokesman for the family said: “They are in distress and they are so distraught for the passenger who lost his life. We extend our condolences to his family.
“Our focus right now is on the terrible tragedy that has occurred to the passenger and his family, and on helping Maurice fight his way back.
“The aircraft was operating normally and Mr Hammond is one of the most experienced pilots of that type of plane in the UK. This type of aircraft is maintained on the level of a Formula One car.”
The spokesman said the family would co-operate fully with the Air Accident Investigation Branch, which will investigate the cause of the accident.
Five fire crews and specialist units were sent to the scene and a blanket of foam was sprayed to stop the flames.
Our focus right now is on the terrible tragedy that has occurred to the passenger and his family, and on helping Maurice fight his way back
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service were also in attendance.
Area manager for Norfolk Fire Service Garry Collins said the plane, believed to be coming in to land when it crashed, was ablaze when the first firefighters arrived.
He described it as a “tragic accident near the end of the runway.”
A spokesperson for EEAST added: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends involved at this sad time.”
A witness who was walking his dogs when he saw the plane come down said he heard a small explosion after it disappeared behind some trees.
Charles Christian, who lives close to the airfield, said: “The plane in question was flying in and coming into land quite normally and flew right over my head.
“It flew on toward the runway, which is about a quarter of a mile away, and disappeared behind the trees to land. A few seconds later there was a bang, which I am guessing was the explosion.
“There was no sign of anything happening, there wasn’t a column of smoke or anything. But when it came into land it was working totally fine.”
The Mustang aeroplane which Maurice Hammond was flying was named Janie and is among a fleet of vintage planes he owned.
Collectively called Hardwick Warbirds, the fleet includes two Mustangs, one Texan one Auster and a Stearman.
They were all built in the 1940s during the Second World War.
Janie was one of a batch of ten planes constructed by North American Aviation in Dallas, Texas, in 1945.
It was shipped to New Zealand in August that year and based at Hobsonville, in Auckland, where it was used by the New Zealand airforce until 1955.
Mr Hammond bought the plane in 1997 and brought it back to the UK for a complete restoration, which took four and a half years.
Its first flight in civilian operation took place in July 2001.