Ten years ago a private Learjet attempting to land at RAF Northolt overshot the runway and ploughed into traffic on the A40, and Gazette reporters and photographers swung into action.
Despite fears at the time similar accidents would happen, the borough has not seen another air crash, despite constant overflying both from aircraft using RAF Northolt and being home to one of the world’s busiest airports at
Heathrow. Here The Gazette’s CHRIS LONGHURST, BARBARA FISHER and CHRIS BERRY look back on the events of August 14, 1996.
It was a perfect summer’s morning when a privately chartered Learjet on final approach to RAF Northolt, in Ruislip Gardens, overshot the runway and tore through the perimeter fence.
Careering out on to the busy A40, the aeroplane, which was carrying Irish actress and model Lisa Hogan, then 27, hit a van, before breaking into pieces and starting to leak fuel on to the ground.
If the accident had happened an hour earlier, during the rush hour, the casualties could have been catastrophic.
Luckily the road had been fairly clear.
Tipper truck driver, Phil Gutcher of Yeading, had a narrow escape, as he saw the Learjet coming and was able o swerve, but the van behind him was not so fortunate.
Mr Gutcher radioed for help and soon the area was swarming with police, fire and ambulance staff – as well as reporters and news crews from across the country.
The A40 was closed between the Swakeleys and Target roundabouts, and traffic jams built as drivers tried to find alternative routes into London.
The van which the plane hit was driven by Gary Jewell, who was trapped for 40 minutes before being taken to Ealing hospital, where he was found to have non-life-threatening injuries.
Pilot Captain Santiago Morin, 53, and co-pilot José Rosal were taken to Hillingdon Hospital, as was Ms Hogan. None was seriously hurt.
The company which owned the van, Clive Waldron Upholstery of Reading, changed its name to Waldron Office Furniture three years ago and is still operating.
Managing director, Dave Jackson, said: “I joined the company after this incident but I remember it was the talk of the town for months afterwards.
“We were not able to use the phones because they were constantly jammed by reporters ringing us up, and there were news crews camped outside the office for two whole weeks.
“Even today, every so often when we get a new customer they say: ‘Wasn’t your company involved in a plane crash a few years ago?’.
“People still remember it because it was in every paper.
“I can’t believe it’s been 10 years, but at least no-one was killed and I’m glad nothing like it has happened again since.”
At the time, RAF Northolt was planning to expand the number of commercial fights it offered, but following the accident, calls from local residents and MPs were made to stop this.
David Horne, a former Labour councillor on Hillingdon Council, represented what was Deansfield ward at the time of the accident.
He said: “I was chairman of the Ruisip/Northwood planning committee and it was our task to look at the application for more flights.
“We went and saw the base two weeks after the accident and got shown the crash site.
“We all agreed we could not believe no-one was killed.
“It was certainly a big event in the history of the borough.
“At the time I was very against expanding the number of flights, but a lot of work was done to make the runways safer and nowadays I think the amount of planes using the base is about right.”
Wreckage from the crash was taken to Farnborough in Hampshire by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau for a full inquiry.
The Gazette contacted RAF Northolt about the air crash anniversary but no-one was available for comment.