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'You died a hero .. my girl was playing on the field you avoided' - MESSAGE TO PILOT FROM A PARENT; JET HORROR IN SUBURBS.

Byline: By STEWART MACLEAN and LAURIE HANNA

A GRATEFUL family paid tribute last night to the hero pilot killed when a jet crashed on to a house.

Mike Roberts died with four others as he tried to steer the doomed plane clear of children on a playing field and a housing estate.

Among flowers left at the scene was the message: "You died a hero.

"I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart as my daughter was playing on the field you avoided. Rest in peace." It was signed: "Bennett's family."

Another read: "I respect you for missing me on the field where you were going to land - Gary."

Witness Damian Lockley, 29, said Mr Roberts avoided the Princess Royal University hospital a few hundred metres away and threestorey council blocks - "if the plane had hit one of them it would have killed dozens." Mr Roberts, 63, co-pilot Mike Chapman, 52, ex-British Touring Car driver David Leslie, 54, race team boss Richard Lloyd, 63, and Chris Allarton, 25, were in the Cessna Citation that crashed in Farnborough, Kent, minutes after leaving Biggin Hill for France.

Chris, of Newark, Notts, was "over the moon" at starting his "dream job" as a racing analyst for Mr Lloyd's Apex team only last Monday, said his father Richard.

As he and wife Ruth, 50, comforted daughter Kathryn, 23, son Graeme, 20, and Chris's girlfriend Jane Oswin, 24, he added: "Chris met a beautiful girl, finished university and got a great job. He loved motorsport."

Dad-of-three Mr Lloyd, of Brackley, Northants, led Apex after a career in which he won the British Touring Car Championship and World Endurance Championship.

Mr Leslie, of Banbury, Oxon, also won the British Touring Car Championship for Vauxhall, Honda and Nissan in the 90s.

As the bodies were recovered, ex-Formula One driver Damon Hill, now president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, said it was "a great pleasure and privilege to know them".

Stunned staff at the Silverstone circuit held a minute's silence.

British Touring Car Club boss Alan Gow said: "We mourn this tragic loss."

Ex-racing driver David Brabham said: "David was a great guy and a distinguished gentleman."

Mike Roberts, of Effingham, Surrey, and Mike Chapman, of Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, ran small flying firms and had a total of over 60 years' experience.

Mr Roberts' business partner Mike Wells said he "would have done everything in his power" to try to save "his colleagues, passengers and people on the ground".

Mr Chapman's family were too grief-stricken to speak. But friend Malcolm Blows said: "Mike really was one of the good guys."

Voice of the Mirror: Page 10

stewart.maclean@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

WRECKED: Grim scene yesterday at home hit by jet; GRIEF: Resident places flowers near crash site; THE VICTIMS Pilot Mike Roberts, 63, was hailed as a hero; Co-pilot Mike Chapman "a delightful guy"; David Leslie was former touring car race ace; Chris Allarton hoped for racetrack career; Richard Lloyd led race team after track career
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 1, 2008
Words:504
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