Essex Air Crash 'Could Have Been Caused By Heart Problem'

Chigwell Aircrash 1

A fatal light aircraft crash in Chigwell could have been caused by the captain suffering a severe heart problem, accident investigators said.

Captain Robert Bull, 40, from Luton, Bedfordshire, lost control of the plane, which crashed in a field in Chigwell on October 3 last year.

Both he and First Officer Francis Simmonds, 46, of Hornchurch were killed.

The post mortem examination of Mr Bull found evidence of an acute dissection of a coronary artery, indicating that he may have suffered from impaired consciousness or even sudden death.

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The pathologist was unable to determine whether his condition occurred before or after the crash, but the report stated: "If there is no other cause identified for the crash then it is both possible and plausible that this was the precipitating factor."

A report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found that although it could not be stated "unequivocally" that the pilot became incapacitated, "on the balance of probabilities" it is "likely" that he lost control of the aircraft to due medical reasons.

Mr Simmonds was unable to take over and recover the aircraft in time to avoid it crashing into trees at the edge of a field.

The Beech B200 Super King Air was sometimes used by West Ham United chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold.

Following the crash, they said they had been lucky not to have been on board.

The pair had been due to fly from Stapleford Airport to the North East where their team had a Premier League match with Sunderland.

There was a last-minute change of plan when they arrived at the airport but found it was closed.