P-51 Mustang Crashes Killing the Passenger and Injuring the Pilot

Mystery surrounds the reason for the airplane crash that claimed the life of one person and left a second fighting for his life in hospital.  At 3:38 pm on Sunday 2nd October, emergency services were called to the RAF Hardwick base at Topcroft, near Bungay, because a plane had crash landed.  On arrival, they found the plane was burning, and they managed to rescue the pilot, Maurice Hammond, but his elderly passenger was declared dead at the scene of the accident.

Mr. Hammond was airlifted to the NNUH (Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital), where he remains in a serious but stable condition.  His wife and daughters were at his side.  A family spokesman said, “Maurice has had a satisfactory night at NNUH (Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital), and his condition is stable and under constant assessment. All of your best wishes have been passed on.”

The Air Accident Investigation Branch will investigate the accident, but at this stage, there is no overt cause for the crash landing.  Gary Collins, area manager for Norfolk Fire Service, said the plane, believed to be coming in to land when it crashed, was ablaze when the first fire fighters arrived.  Witnesses in the area told the Press Association that the plane, a P51 Mustang, did not seem in distress when it flew toward the airfield.

The P-51 in better days - Mark Barnes
The P-51 in better days – Picture by Mark Barnes

Charles Christian was out walking with his dog when he saw the plane fly past and then heard the explosion as went behind some trees, Eastern Daily Press reported.

Mr. Christian said, “The plane in question was flying in and coming into land quite normally and flew right over my head.  It flew on toward the runway, which is about a quarter of a mile away, and disappeared behind the trees to land. A few seconds later there was a bang, which I am guessing was the explosion.

“There was no sign of anything happening; there wasn’t a column of smoke or anything. But when it came into land it was working totally fine.”

Maurice Hammond - Picture by Mark Barnes
Maurice Hammond – Picture by Mark Barnes

Maurice Hammond is well-known in the area as he owns a fleet of vintage planes known as the Hardwick Warbirds.  The plane that crashed was an American fighter from WWII, the P-51D Mustang.

The family, whilst relieved that Mr. Hammond passed the night satisfactorily in hospital sent the following message through their spokesman, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the aircraft passenger, and to them we extend our heartfelt condolences.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE