School open as normal after Weston Hills plane crash

It’s business as usual at a village school this morning after a military plane crashed just yards from it yesterday afternoon.

A spokesman for Weston Hills Primary School said almost all of the children had been able to get to school this morning after road closures were lifted.

She said: “The roads are mainly open around Weston Hills now.

“The crash was a bit of a shock, mostly for the staff  as the children had left for the day when it happened, but fortunately everyone is OK and the school is fine.”

The US F-15 plane based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk came down in fields close to Broadgate at around 3.30pm yesterday.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing two planes, which were on a combat training exercise, “dogfighting” prior to the accident.

One said she believed the stricken plane lost an engine and started “flying backwards” before flipping end over end and spiralling towards the ground.

She said she believed the plane travelled around a mile after the pilot ejected before crashing into a farmer’s field.

Many people reported seeing two canopies floating away from the plane, although authorities report that only the pilot was on board and was not seriously injured.

In the aftermath of the crash, emergency services cordoned off large areas of Weston Hills and were not allowing people to return to their homes within the exclusion zone, although residents inside the cordon were not evacuated.

People were advised to stay inside with windows closed because of the clouds of smoke which continued to billow from the crash site for a number of hours.

Fred Wills, of Carisbrooke Way, just off Broadgate, said: “I was just going out to the garden to do something and I thought the noise from the planes was a bit loud. I looked up and saw the plane spinning, nose down and then boom, it hit the ground.

“I looked up and saw two canopies floating away in the distance.

“The engines of the plane still seemed to be going full blast as it came down. It exploded when it hit the ground.”

Neighbour Brian Wallace was at home watching television when the crash happened.

He said: “There had been some aircraft noise for a while but this seemed extra loud so I went to the window and saw the plane hit the ground.

“It came down like a paper aeroplane on its side. It hit the ground and burst into flames.”

Ray and Geraldine Barnett also saw the plane crash from their home in Carisbrooke Way.

Mr Barnett said: “The noise was louder than usual so I looked across the rooftops and saw the plane spiralling and shouted to my wife that it was crashing.

“I phoned the emergency services and went outside and saw the parachute and realised they had bailed.

“It was so lucky it didn’t hit the school. The parachutes came out of the clouds so they ejected quite high up – the plane could have come down anywhere and we could have all been without somewhere to sleep tonight.”

Graham and Beverley Roach said the impact of the plane in a field just behind their home sounded just like a “dull thud”.

Mr Roach said: “I thought something had hit the front of the house so went outside and saw the two parachutes over Weston way. When I went to the back of the house I could see the flames. It was really too close for comfort.”

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