West Ham chairmen made ‘50-50’ call not to board tragic crash plane on way to Sunderland clash

The scene of a light aircraft crash in a field off Gravel Lane in Chigwell
The scene of a light aircraft crash in a field off Gravel Lane in Chigwell
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West Ham’s joint chairmen made a ‘50-50’ call not to board a plane which crashed in Essex ahead of the club’s Premier League clash at Sunderland yesterday.

David Sullivan and David Gold had been due to fly from Stapleford Airport to the north east for the Premier League match at The Stadium of Light.

The chairmen of West Ham United, David Gold (left) and David Sullivan, who said they were fortunate not to be on the doomed aircraft which crashed in Essex yesterday.

The chairmen of West Ham United, David Gold (left) and David Sullivan, who said they were fortunate not to be on the doomed aircraft which crashed in Essex yesterday.

The pair had an option to fly on one of the two light aircraft - including the Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop aircraft, which crashed in a field in Chigwell shortly before 10.20am.

A spokesman for the football club confirmed the pair had been set to jet off from the airport but had to change their plans when they arrived to find it closed.

Mr Sullivan said: “The aviation company, London Executive Aviation (LEA), have two planes and we have flown on that particular plane about 50 times.

“It was 50/50 whether we got on the plane that crashed or the other one. It’s a real shock. My heart goes out to the families of the pilots, it’s very, very sad.

“When we arrived at the airport it was already closed off because of the crash and we had to divert to Stansted to get a flight to Newcastle to get to the Sunderland game. We were a bit late for the match.

“We used that airline all the time and they are really excellent.”

Investigations are continuing into how the aircraft crashed only moments after take-off.

Both people on board were described by LEA as “highly-experienced professional pilots”.

Witnesses reported hearing a “loud bang” and “the ground shaking” as the eight-seater aircraft came down a short distance away from where members of the Girl Guides were camping.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, who were called to the scene, said the aircraft was “100% alight” when they arrived.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has sent a team to investigate the incident.

Detective chief inspector Stephen Jennings, of Essex Police, said: “We are working together with the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and the Essex Coroner’s Office.

“The recovery and forensic investigations will take some time and we appreciate the patience of the local landowners and residents whilst this work continues.

“Our thoughts are with the families of those who died and we offer our deepest sympathies to them.”