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Suffolk crash man reunited with pilot

PUBLISHED: 18:00 15 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:55 03 March 2010

A BUSINESSMAN who suffered life-threatening injuries when his plane fell hundreds of feet to the ground has been reunited with the pilot who was with him on the flight.

A BUSINESSMAN who suffered life-threatening injuries when his plane fell hundreds of feet to the ground has been reunited with the pilot who was with him on the flight.

Andrew Harding and South-African born pilot Steve Heugh were both left in a critical condition in hospital following the accident, which happened near Johannesburg on January 23 last year.

Both men have since undergone extensive medical treatment to repair damage to their spines and had not previously had an opportunity to meet up again.

But Mr Heugh, who works for South African Airways, took a train to Suffolk while staying in London last week and the pair spent a day exchanging their memories of the accident.

Mr Harding, 47, from Milden, near Hadleigh, said: "It was very useful for me to go back over the accident and what happened with him.

"We tried to work out what happened together and whether it could have been different. We came to the conclusion that it was a tragic accident and we did everything we could. It was really good to meet up."

Mr Harding, who is a director of the Ipswich-based Deben Holdings which has property interests including the Golden Lion and Church's café bar in Ipswich, said the pair planned to remain in touch.

The businessman, who has two sons, was a co-pilot in a Pitts Special aircraft that was undertaking aerobatic manoeuvres when it crashed into an airfield near Johannesburg.

He suffered extensive injuries to his right foot and face, damaged internal organs, ruptured spinal nerves and shattered his back in three places.

Once he has managed to walk, Mr Harding hopes to take a medical examination towards the end of the summer, which, if he passes, will give him back his aviation licence.

"Once I can walk again, I can take a medical," he said. "If it wasn't for the bolt and cage around my leg, I would be fit to fly now, but by the end of the summer I would hope to be looking to getting in an aeroplane again."


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