HC Deb 01 May 1952 vol 499 cc119-21W
125. Mr. Carson

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air whether he will make a statement regarding the American Air Force jet fighter which crashed at St. Peters, Broadstairs, on 27th April, causing loss of life; whether he is satisfied that all the safety regulations regarding low flying and flying over built-up areas were observed; why the plane was carrying live ammunition; and what steps he is taking, in conjunction with the American Air Force authorities, to prevent the recurrence of such a disaster.

Mr. Ward

This accident occurred shortly after a fighter of the United States Air Force stationed at Manston had taken off on a training flight. The pilot and two people in the village of St. Peters lost their lives. Three people were seriously injured. I am sure that the House will wish to join in the expression of deep regret to the next of kin of the deceased and to the injured and their relatives which I have received from General McConnell, in command of the United States Third Air Force. In his letter General McConnell says: It was with the most profound regret that I learned of the crash of a United States Air Force aircraft from the fighter base in Manston on 27th April, 1952, which took the lives of British civilians. 2. While I know that nothing can make full restitution for such a tragic occurrence, I would like you to know of the actions I have taken to alleviate at least partially the results of this sad occurrence. 3. On the day following the accident, I sent to Manston a team of officers, headed by my Inspector General and including specialists in several categories, to investigate the accident and to take all possible action on the spot. 4. Included in the team is a Claims Officer who will have as his primary responsibility the investigation of all financial expenses of the occurrence and the adjudication of all the claims by the most expeditious means. 5. Other actions included:

  1. (a) Authority to move immediately into hotels or other appropriate facilities at United States Government expense all persons or other civilian activities made homeless by the accident;
  2. (b) the flying to the scene of the best possible medical talent in the United Kingdom to augment available medical service, if necessary, the fees of these specialists to be paid by my Government;
  3. (c) the flying to the funeral from Canada at the expense of my Government, of a sister of one of the victims of the accident; and
  4. (d) instructions to contact me directly for authority to accomplish such other unusual actions as may be necessary.
6. Copies of the formal report made by my Inspector General of this incident will be provided to the appropriate agencies of the Air Ministry. 7. Please accept this as an expression of deepest regret, from my Government and from the United States Air Force, and I hope you will advise me of any additional actions I may take to further discharge my responsibilities to any British individual or agencies concerned.

The Air Council have expressed their sincere thanks to General McConnell for his letter and for the action which he has so promptly and generously taken to alleviate, so far as possible, the distress caused by this sad accident. They have also asked him to express their deep sympathy for the relatives of the pilot.

The findings of the Inspector General will be made available to the Air Ministry, and I know that the United States Air Force authorities will give their wholehearted support to any safety measures which can be taken for the future. It appears, however, from the information which I have at present, there was no question of failure to observe the regulations concerning low flying and flying over built-up areas.

Operational fighter aircraft of the United States Air Force based in the United Kingdom, in common with those of Fighter Command, frequently have to carry live ammunition for operational training purposes. The explosion of ammunition when this aircraft crashed did not cause additional casualties.