Fenland pilot died after plane plummeted thousands of feet and crashed into riverbank, inquest hears

A 70 YEAR-old Fenland pilot died after he was thrown into a ditch when the leisure plane he was flying plummeted from thousands of feet in the air, an inquest heard today.

Frank Ball, of Plash Drove, Wisbech St Mary, died of “catastrophic injuries” after crashing the one-seat Taylor Titch plane into a riverbank in Coates, near March.

The plane had spiralled out of control, plunging from the sky to hit the bank of the River Nene at more than 100 mph, Wisbech Coroner’s Court heard.

Mr Ball, an experienced pilot, had been flying a plane belonging to his friend, engineer David Beale, at the time of the accident on November 8 last year.

Having taken the plane for a test drive himself, Mr Beale offered his friend, who had never flown a Taylor Titch, a chance in the cockpit.

Mr Ball was given a briefing from Mr Beale before he took off in the plane, from White Fen Farm airstrip, near March.

The court heard that the take-off was “messy” as Mr Ball had been used to flying his own plane, which had a propellor rotating in the opposite direction.

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Mr Beale watched the plane climb thousands of feet in the air before it veered out of sight. He contacted police half an hour later, when it failed to return.

Coroner William Morris read statements from witnesses who had been birdwatching nearby. One described the plane spiralling out of control, completing at least ten full spins in the air as it plummeted from higher than 1,000 feet in the air.

The plane was found stuck in the mud of the riverbank at Eldernell Lane, Coates, with Mr Ball thrown from the cockpit into a water-filled ditch.

Dr Dalibor Stratil, a pathologist at Peterborough District Hospital, said Mr Ball’s injuries were “catastrophic”. He had a series of fractured bones, skin wounds and the muscles of his heart had been torn.

It was possible that Mr Ball had suffered an “incapacitating cardiac event” mid-air which had left him unable to control the plane as it fell from the sky, the court heard.

He had been to his doctor on several occasions with suspected heart problems and shortness of breath, but had been cleared by medics. One doctor had signed a form to say he was still fit to fly passengers.

Stephen Moss, an inspector of air accidents, told the court that the severely damaged plane had been found buried at a 50 degree angle in the mud.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Mr Morris said: “It’s possible that Frank Ball suffered some cardiac event that made him lose control of the plane.

“He died of catastrophic injuries when the aircraft he was piloting went into a spiral dive and crashed into a riverbank.”

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