The pilot of an aircraft who died alongside three passengers when it crashed into a field was an expert in chemical and biological weapons, it emerged today.
Dr Paul Norman, 52, of Salisbury, Wiltshire, was killed when the single-engine Cessna 206 he was piloting crashed in Devon on Sunday.
A father and daughter also died at the scene, and 44-year-old parachute instructor and Royal Marine Major Mike Wills later died in hospital.
Dr Norman, who was married with a 14-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter, was the chief scientist for chemical and biological defence at the Ministry of Defence’s laboratory at Porton Down, Wiltshire.
He travelled the world lecturing on defending against the scourge of weapons of mass destruction, a friend and colleague said today.
Steve Eley, chief scientist for hazard reduction at Porton Down, said: “Paul was a great deal larger than life, and has left an enormous number of friends, all of whom have lost an irreplaceable part of their lives.”
Dr Norman’s hobbies included parachuting, flying and looking after his small collection of old cars.
Following study in Liverpool, the USA and Canada, he started work at Porton Down in 1986 and became an expert in his field.
The Cessna crashed near the village of Beacon, east Devon, a few miles from Dunkeswell airfield, where it took off.
The aircraft’s other two passengers, 16-year-old Daniel Greening from Kingsteignton, Devon, and a 23-year-old from Taunton, Somerset, are still in hospital.
Daniel’s family said yesterday that he had survived thanks to the “selfless actions” of other skydivers on board.
He was making a tandem jump with Major Wills, based at the Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, Devon, who was one of the world’s leading parachutists.
The skydiving ace, from Tiverton, Devon, had 5,900 jumps to his name and had held world and UK records.
The flight was organised by the Devon and Somerset Parachute School, which has temporarily suspended its operations.
The crash site was examined by officials from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
The wreckage of the aircraft was removed from the site to the AAIB base at Farnborough.
Retired police officer Eric Franklin, 66, from Beacon, has described seeing the aircraft flying low over his farmhouse and hearing the engine “cutting out and spluttering” before the crash.
Courtesy Rowena Thursby