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Barasat crash kills US pilot

Calcutta, Aug. 27: An American pilot was killed when the one-seater Cessna aircraft he was flying crashed into a field near Barasat in North 24-Parganas tonight.

Airport sources said the aircraft, which was being piloted by a US national, identified as Doeke de Graaf (of Dutch descent), had landed at Calcutta airport shortly after 8 pm, after it had flown in from Ahmedabad.

After refuelling, the aircraft took off from the airport at 8.40 pm, heading to Singapore. The aircraft belonged to Southern Cross Aviation, possibly a US concern.

Shortly after take-off, the aircraft developed engine trouble and the pilot radioed the airport control in Calcutta for help.

The aircraft had turned and was heading back for Calcutta airport when it crashed into a bamboo grove in Swetput under Deganga police station in North 24-Parganas. District police sources said it burst into flames on crashing, giving the pilot no chance to eject.

“We instantly picked up the crash on our radar,” an airport official said. Immediately, rescue teams rushed from the airport as well as the fire brigade to the crash site.

“The pilot’s body is charred and the details we have about the pilot and aircraft are from the records at Calcutta airport where the pilot had landed for refuelling,” said DIG headquarters, Narayan Ghosh.

Ghosh said the rescuers found it difficult to bring out de Graaf’s body as the raging fire prevented fire-fighters from reaching the aircraft. At the time of reporting, the blaze had still not been put out.

Unconfirmed reports said the American was on a world tour and had come in from “some country in the Middle East”, stopped in Ahmedabad before halting in Calcutta for refuelling.

The pilot then left for Singapore via Phuket, Thailand.

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