Devastated father tells of horrifying plane crash which left his son dead

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A devastated father told a coroner of the final moments leading to an airplane crash which killed his son and left him and his five-year-old grandson badly injured.

John Nuttall was at the controls of the single-engined Piper Cherokee when the plane struck trees and crashed at Caernarfon Airport last May.

Light aircraft crashed at Caernarfon airport PICTURE: ARWYN ROBERTS

Light aircraft crashed at Caernarfon airport PICTURE: ARWYN ROBERTS

Mr Nuttall said he had hired the plane and was flying from Blackpool to Caernarfon with his son Iain, 37, and grandson Daniel.

Truck driver Iain Nuttall suffered a serious head injury and was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Mr Nuttall, 61, from Rossendale, told an inquest in Caernarfon that the flight along the North Wales coast had been “uneventful”.

Approaching the airport he called the air traffic officer and asked to make a straight in approach to the westerly runway. “It was standard procedure and I positioned the aircraft and turned left and reduced power for the descent,” he said.

“As I turned to face the runway the engine failed, the power stopped, it just went. I levelled out but was unable to get it back on again.

“I tried to gain height but there was no power from the engine.” He and Daniel were badly injured and were airlifted to hospital but have since recovered. Witnesses told the inquest at Caernarfon they watched in horror as they realised the aircraft was too low and about to crash.

One, David Howells was in the caravan park adjoining the airport and said he saw the aircraft approach and realised it was too low and would “not make the airfield”.

“It was 50-100 feet too low and flying very slowly.

“Just before the trees it began to pull up but it appeared the tail hit the trees and disappeared from sight.

“It was fairly obvious it was going to crash and I began running,” he said.

He was the first at the scene and found the aircraft upside down with fuel pouring from the left hand wing tank.

“I could see one man in the doorway, he wasn’t moving and could hear a child crying and another man groaning. There was nothing I could do and waited for the emergency services who were there very quickly,” he said.

Air investigators told North Wales senior coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones there was no evidence the Piper Cherokee’s engine failed but found it lost power and there may have been ice on the carburettor.

Air Accident Investigation Branch senior investigator Margaret Dean said carburettor icing can build up slowly and gradually and its symptoms are not evident, especially during a descent.

“It only becomes apparent when power is required,” she added.

Mrs Dunn added she would expect pilots to apply carb heat during an approach to prevent ice from building up in the engine.

The hearing heard there were issues with the aircraft’s condition.

Investigators found two bolts holding the wing to the fuselage were missing - but the coroner said while he was aware of “peripheral issues” these were not relevant to the inquest.

Recording a verdict of accidental death said: “The main cause, in my view and on the balance or probabilities, is due to carburettor icing and the failure of the pilot to identify that.”