Lee Rogers and Brian Statham took off from Wellesbourne Mountford airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon on April 2, heading to Le Touquet, France, when they crashed into the English Channel.
Tributes have been paid to two friends who are feared dead after their plane crashed into England’s Chanel in ‘abnormal weather conditions’.
Lee Rogers and Brian Statham had taken off from Wellesbourne Mountford airfield near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warkwickshire at around 10.30am on April 2.
They were heading for Le Touquet, a seaside town in northern France, when their Piper PA-28R lost radar contact before crashing into the English Channel.
The trip was part of a group flight with South Warwickshire Flying School, which included several other aircraft.
An investigation is currently being carried out by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) into the cause of the accident which is believed to have occurred during a snow storm.
Today the families of Lee and Brian paid tribute to their loved ones with appeals for help locating their bodies.
A joint response has been launched by the French Coastguard and HM Coastguard to search an area off the Kent and Sussex coasts, but so far they have not been found.
In a statement released by Warwickshire Police, Lee’s family said: “It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of a wonderful father, loving husband and devoted family man, Lee Rogers, who was taken from us due to a tragic air crash.”
They said with the search canceled on Sunday night, they had “no choice but to assume” Lee was dead.
“Anyone who knew Lee will bear witness to a larger-than-life character who lived his life to the fullest, a man with a big heart and boundless generosity.
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“A competent and enthusiastic pilot, a lover of all kinds of fast and noisy machines, which also included a new love of yachting.
“He will leave a great wake behind him and will be sadly missed – not only by his family but by his legion of friends and colleagues.”
The statement adds that Lee will forever be a “legendary figure in the computing world” as well as the Warwickshire community.
“Not only was a successful entrepreneur known for his principled and uncompromising code of ethics, Lee was also a benevolent supporter of various charities,” he said.
He supported Guide Dogs and recently bred the puppy Dixon – which was later officially called a sight dog – and raised funds for other dogs.
Lee was also a devoted family man who married his wife Sarah eight years ago and they “shared some real adventures” – including the “apple of his eye”, his daughter Ellie.
“Lee had a daily story to tell about his baby girl, another larger-than-life character who mirrors his parents in the best possible way,” his family continued.
“It’s not fair that Ellie was separated from her father so young, or that Sarah was deprived of her husband long before her time or that Lee’s parents and sister lost a son and a brother.
AFP via Getty Images)
“Life isn’t fair, but few people leave a legacy like Lee, even though they’ve had a hundred lifetimes.”
Brian’s family said they were “deeply saddened” to have lost the two friends.
On Thursday, Brian’s flight bag was found and handed over by a tourist on the beach in Le Touquet.
Her family said they were “deeply grateful for this kind and helpful act”.
“This was vital evidence to help us understand what happened on their last flight.”
They then asked anyone living on the north coast of France or the south coast of England, or passing by the beaches at any time, “please be alert for any form of aircraft debris, clothing and d ‘personal items’.
“If you see anything, please pick it up and turn it over to local authorities.
“Your help in this area could bring comfort and closure to families and allow us to begin the grieving process.
“As of this week, our loved ones have been missing and we cannot even contemplate a funeral,” they added.
A spokesperson for HM Coastguard previously said: “HM Coastguard supported the French Coastguard in the search for a light aircraft, last known position 25 miles off Dungeness on 2nd April.
“HM Coastguard were notified of a light aircraft missing just after 10.30am on April 2 after radar contact was lost with the aircraft as it crossed the English Channel from the UK to France.
“Coastguard search and rescue helicopters from Lydd and Lee-on-the-Solent, together with two fixed-wing aircraft as well as Dungeness and Hastings RNLI lifeboats, have joined French search and rescue assets. rescue in the search on April 2 and 3.
“Nothing was found and the search was suspended at 5:50 p.m. on April 3.”
A spokesperson for the French maritime prefecture said: “An emergency operation revealed no signs of the accident on Saturday and on Sunday a helicopter flew over the search area but found nothing.
“The direct search has been called off, but anyone discovering debris is urged to contact maritime authorities.”