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'I braked as the helicopter fell out of the sky'

[Leicester Mercury story, July 17, 2002]

A driver who cheated death with his baby son when a helicopter plunged to earth yards from his car has spoken of his shock.

Matthew Lowe, a Porter at the University of Leicester, braked as the stricken chopper smashed into a field beside the A46 in Warwickshire, then raced to the scene to see if he could help the crew.

The two men on board the two-seater Robinson 22 aircraft were killed, apparently following a mid-air explosion which rained debris on both sides of the road at Hampton Magna, near Warwick.

Mr Lowe was driving home to Syston with his 10-month-old son Ethan when the accident happened at around 6pm on Saturday.

"I was driving when the helicopter fell out of the sky in front of me," he said. "It came nose down - fast.

"If it had landed on the road, I couldn't have stopped in time.

"It was so close. I shouted "oh no!" and pulled over by a service station, then ran over.

"There was a group of bikers at the service station already ringing the emergency services.

"When I got to the helicopter, it wasn't burning, just smouldering, but you could feel the heat coming off it."

First aid expert Mr Lowe, 30, a former St John Ambulance volunteer, rushed to the mangled cockpit to check for survivors.

"I took one look at them inside and said 'there's nothing we can do'," he said.

"One guy was face up and the other was slumped down. One was still holding on to the seat belt. I can see their faces now. You don't forget something like that."

Mr Lowe says he went into shock a few minutes later. "I had the shakes. I was hot and sweaty and there was panic in my voice," he said.

Warwickshire police named the victims as Peter Clarke, 24, of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire and 56-year-old Aaron Jones, of Leamington Spa. They had taken off from Wellesbourne airfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the cause of the accident.

Jeremy Clay

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Last updated: 19 July 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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