A pilot was killed yesterday after two gliders collided mid-air and plunged to the ground in a devastating crash witnessed by dozens of people.
Horrified residents have told of their shock at the pilot’s death after his glider crashed over a field in front of their homes and the wreckage landed just yards from a busy road.
The crash was seen by dozens of passers-by in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire at around 3pm on Thursday August 17.
Amanda Coombs, whose home is close to the crash site, said: ‘Our thoughts are with the person who lost their life right on our doorstep.
“But it could have been much worse. He narrowly missed the houses and the main road, although he cut the roof of a house. It would have been unthinkable.
Wreckage of one of the gliders involved in a mid-air collision in the skies over Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Police examine wreckage of glider in which pilot was killed
Eyewitness David Leach, who lives on the outskirts of Melton Mowbray, told MailOnline: ‘There were four gliders flying in a group over our house.
“We watched them for a few minutes as they flew just below cloud level.
“Then one collided with another. It looked like the front end of one clipped the back end of the other.
“Then he immediately started spiraling down. The second one also went down but a little slower.
“They came down very quickly. It was shocking and disturbing to see.
A major incident has been declared with emergency services still on the scene after the ‘freak accident’ yesterday afternoon.
The pilot of the second unpowered glider reportedly had a miraculous escape, surviving reported in-flight wing clipping.
The wreckage of the two single-seater craft is strewn over a half-mile radius across three stages.
One onlooker said: ‘One of the gliders was completely obliterated. It would be a miracle if anyone had survived it.
“They collided in the air. There were a few in the sky at the time. One of the gliders appears to be fine, but the other has extended and was left in several pieces on the ground.
“It’s a shocking scene to say the least. They narrowly avoided the city.
The main hub of one and the body of the pilot remain covered in an unused field last night on a new housing development, bordering the A607 Leicester Road.
One onlooker said: ‘One of the gliders was completely obliterated. It would be a miracle if someone had survived it’
A second glider with damage to its right wing lies abandoned in the middle of a field on the outskirts of Melton Mowbray
Half of the broken white wing lies in another spot of grass with other debris.
A shaken Ms Coombs, director of human resources, told MailOnline: ‘We are truly shocked, saddened and sickened by what has happened on our doorstep. It looks like an abnormal accident.
“We feel compassion for the family who lost a loved one and the emergency services are treating the scene with great respect.
“It’s right outside our living room window.”
Ms Coombs moved into her home five months ago, overlooking a field, set to be re-wild and landscaped, on the Roundhouse Park estate, with co-developers Ashberry Homes and Bellway.
She said: ‘I came home early from work because my dog was sick and there were emergency services everywhere, and I thought ‘Oh my God’ what’s going on.
“The streets were cordoned off but the police let me through the barrier.
“We discovered that a glider had crashed in the field just outside the front door and the pilot had tragically died. You don’t expect this to happen at your doorstep.
“We heard that two gliders had crashed high in the air, with one pilot surviving and the other unfortunately not.”
Her husband, Chief Guy Coombs: “There is real empathy and sadness here for what happened and our hearts go out to the family of the victim.”
Leicestershire Police, County Fire and Rescue Service, East Midlands Ambulance Service and Air Ambulance rushed to the scene after reporting the crash around 3pm.
A head of household, whose house overlooks the main crash site, said: ‘I was at home working when I heard a loud bang, which I didn’t think of at first because this is a new construction area with lots of noisy construction still going on.
“I heard people screaming and walked out the door to see the tail of the glider floating in the air. It crashed in a different place from the body of the craft and its two wings broke.
Police, fire and paramedics were called to the Roundhouse Park housing estate off Leicester Road in Melton Mowbray at around 3pm yesterday.
The young man, a light aircraft pilot, who chose not to be named, told MailOnline: ‘We believe the two gliders had gone for a joy ride and were spiraling around.
“Somehow they clipped the wings, which damaged the craft with devastating consequences.
“It’s a big shock to be so close to home. I can see the debris, and where the pilot fell, may he rest in peace.
Josh, a single father and arborist, said he was enjoying a barbecue in his backyard when he suddenly heard “an unusual noise, a whistle and then a big bang”.
He explained: ‘I walked out of my house and lots of sirens went off and all the emergency services were on the estate.
“We were told that two gliders had clipped wings and crashed in different places, and one was dead.
“It’s a terrible tragedy and everyone here is a bit in shock.”
Josh, 23, father of a baby girl, added: ‘The death occurred in the field, a few meters from the road and many houses. It could have been so much worse.
“The grassy area is unused, it is going to be developed, but if it was a park with children playing, the result could have been even more shocking.”
Mum-of-four Kirsty Williams recounted how one of the gliders hit cut the roof off her house and admitted: ‘We were lucky to get away.
She told MailOnline: ‘I was at home in the afternoon with the children and suddenly heard a very loud bang. My son screamed that something hit the house then crashed into the field outside.
‘It was so scary. The glider hit our antenna and damaged it, not the roof, but that’s nothing, knowing that someone lost their life.
“It could have been worse, so we are grateful for that.
“We are sorry for the person who died outside our homes and we can see all the debris from our window.”
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed it had also deployed “a field team to investigate” to the scene.
A spokesman for the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘We received a mobilization message at 3.03pm to report a glider has crashed.
Rutland and Melton MP Alicia Kearns said: ‘Very saddened to see gliders crashed in Melton today. My thoughts go out to all the families and loved ones of those injured in the accident.
“I know everyone in our communities will wish everyone a full recovery and will be waiting for news. My thanks to the emergency services responding to this heartbreaking accident.
A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “We received a call shortly before 3pm yesterday that a glider had crashed after being involved in a mid-air collision with a second glider.
“The glider was found in a field in Alderman Way and the pilot was unfortunately pronounced deceased at the scene.
“The second glider landed safely nearby. The pilot was slightly injured.
“Officers attended the scene and were assisted by colleagues from the East Midlands Ambulance Service and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue, who were also present.
“Leicestershire Police continue to support the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) who will lead the investigation into the incident.”