TWELVE people were killed last night when a commuter plane en route to

Aberdeen crashed in a tree-lined valley in West Yorkshire during a


Witnesses at the scene told of wreckage scattered across a cornfield,

leaving bodies and fragments of plane strewn over 300 yards.

The Brazilian-built Embraer Bandeirante had been carrying nine

passengers and three crew when it crashed beside the A61 at Dunkeswick

in West Yorkshire.

It had taken off from Leeds-Bradford at 5.46pm. Minutes later the

pilot radioed a request to return to the airport: the plane then

vanished from air traffic control radar.

A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said the plane -- call sign

Knight Air 816 -- was operated by Knight Air, which is based at

Leeds-Bradford airport.

On May 9 one of the airline's Bandeirante aircraft made an emergency

landing at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire after reporting engine

problems. The plane landed safely and the passengers were transferred to

the company's other Bandeirante.

It was believed six of yesterday's victims lived in Scotland,

including one from Glasgow and four from the Grampian area.

The flight had been due to arrive at Aberdeen at around 6.45pm.

Last night Mr Robbie McGregor, the Scottish general manager for

Servisair, the handling agents for Knight Air in Aberdeen, said that the

Bandeirante aircraft had an excellent safety record and had been flying

the Aberdeen to Leeds/Bradford route for two years.

He said the pilot, first officer and stewardess from the crashed

aircraft were all from the Leeds/Huddersfield area.

He said there had been relatives waiting for passengers at the airport

but they had been looked after by representatives of Aberdeen Airport

and Grampian police.

As police and ambulances rushed to the scene, one witness, Mr Anthony

Pickard, told how he had called the rescue services on his mobile phone.

He said there was ''utter carnage'' after the plane broke up on

impact. ''It was a horrific sight. The plane was just in pieces, spread

over a very wide area and there were bodies strewn all over the field.

It was not the sort of thing I would want to see ever again.''

Mr Pickard, whose daughter Sally, a nurse, also went to the scene,

said there was ''little or no chance'' that anyone could have survived.

He said he had first heard the plane, which appeared to be having

problems, as it flew over his garage. It then vanished behind a hill.

Seconds later he and other residents heard ''a huge explosion''.

The scene is just two miles from Harewood House, the stately home of

the queen's cousin Lord Harewood.

Ms Sharon Moore, deputy manager of the Harewood Arms hotel nearby,

said: ''We heard a loud bang, like a clap of thunder, but it turned out

to be the plane coming down.

''There has been torrential rain and thunder and lightning in the area

for the last three hours or so.''

Other witnesses said the weather conditions had been appalling, with

torrential rain and thunder and lightning.

At the cordoned-off crash site, the police officer in charge, Chief

Inspector Paul Gregory, said rescue workers had been severely hampered

by the muddy conditions and the field's remoteness.

''It's very difficult for the fire brigade, police, air-sea rescue and

the ambulance service, but they are doing their very best in these

difficult conditions,'' he said.

The emergency services were forced to scramble across a water-logged

field to reach the crash scene which was 600 yards from the nearest


The field where the plane crashed is part of the 1000-acre Prospect

House Farm, owned by Mr Peter Trickett.

Mr Trickett said the aircraft had come down near the River Wharfe.

He had not seen the crash but another local resident, who gave her

name as Mrs Franklin, said she heard the aircraft ''spluttering'' as it

flew over the village.

''It was flying very low and was obviously in trouble but it seemed to

have picked up again. Then, the next thing we knew, there was a big bang

and we knew it had crashed.''

She said the plane had dug itself into the field very deeply with the

force of the impact.

Divisional Officer Colin Chadfield of North Yorkshire Fire Brigade

said two fire engines had arrived at the scene within 15 minutes. He

said nine casualties were confirmed inmmediately.

Police cordoned off the area and set up an aircraft accident site near

Harewood Bridge, six miles north-east of the airport.

Inspectors from the Department of Transport's air accident

investigation branch were travelling to the area last night, a

department spokesman said.

He said they would be examining the wreckage and if necessary would

take parts to the AAIB headquarters at Farnborough, Hampshire. ''If they

find anything that has any implications for other aircraft they will

contact all operators as soon as possible,'' he said.

One man waiting for the delayed return flight to Leeds said he and his

fellow passengers had been given the choice by Servisair of a free taxi

from Aberdeen to Leeds or waiting until the flight took off.

''This is my first time on the flight so I am now a bit apprehensive

about taking it,'' he said. Some passengers opted to take the taxi ride

to Leeds. Others waited for another flight today.

Transport Minister Brian Mawhinney expressed his sympathy to the

families of those in the accident and called for an early report from

investigators. ''I am extremely grateful to the emergency services for

their prompt response,'' said Dr Mawhinney.

The plane took off in rapidly reducing visibility after what had been

a hot, hazy summer day that ended in thunderstorms. The nearest houses

to the crash scene were about a mile away in the village of Dunkeswick.

Weather conditions could hold the key to investigators working out

what went wrong.

A thunderstorm was raging at the time, presenting the crew of the

small commuter aircraft with serious problems.

The main danger during a thunderstorm -- especially to a small plane

-- is that air currents and turbulence could be so severe that they

actually break up an aircraft in flight.

Another thunderstorm problem is ice forming on the wings and


The twin-engined Bandeirante are common short-haul aircraft. More than

500 are currently flying throughout the world.

In production since 1968, they were the foundation of Brazil's air

industry and are powered by twin Pratt and Whitney engines built in


They are commonly used as commuter planes and are popular with


An information line has been set up by Grampian police on 01224 639111

ext. 2531 or 2532.