Cootham gliding club ‘sickened’ by break-in and crash

JPCT 060614 S14240441x Storrington. Parham gliding club grounds -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140606-140554001
JPCT 060614 S14240441x Storrington. Parham gliding club grounds -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140606-140554001

A gliding club is calling a landing collision, break-in and £50,000 of damage and theft - all in the same day - ‘black Thursday’.

Owners have been left ‘sickened and saddened’ after a series of unfortunate events at Southdown Gliding Club at Parham Airfield, in Cootham near Storrington.

On the morning of Thursday (June 5) the club was found to have been broken into with three buggies stolen and two aircrafts damaged in the process.

In a separate incident the same morning, two men were taken to hospital after a glider collided with a tree.

A representative at the club said: “We called it black Thursday. We’re very upset about both incidents.”

Sussex Air Ambulance and South East Coast Ambulance Service were called to the village just before midday to take two patients to Worthing Hospital.

A tow plane leading a glider had to make an emergency landing after an engine failure; upon landing the glider collided with a tree injuring two men inside, according to a representative at the club. Sussex Police said one had suffered an injury to his lower arm, while the other sustained injuries to his abdomen.

A club representative said: “We had an engine failure on the tow plane, but it made an excellent landing in difficult conditions. The glider landed, but unfortunately collided with a tree, it was almost unavoidable.

“The instructor has a cracked vertebrae, but he should hopefully be back in action soon. The other man was a student who had cuts to the arm.

“Engine failure is a very rare event. The club has only had one previous incident like this, over 20 years ago.”

Sussex Police are appealing for witnesses to the break-in, which is believed to have happened sometime between 8.30pm on Wednesday June 4 and 8.30am on Thursday June 5.

The offender(s) caused £20,000 worth of damage to two hanger craft as they stole three buggies from the club’s premises.

A representative from Southdown Gliding Club claimed that the offender(s) knew what they were looking for.

“We’re sickened and saddened. They clearly knew what they were looking for and in taking these buggies they bashed one aircraft into another.

“Our insurance companies are now involved. We spent years building up our no claims discount because our finances are important to us as a volunteer-run club.”

The club representative added that despite the criminal damage and theft, the team will ‘get by’.

A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: “It would appear the offender(s) were able to gain access by cutting locks which had been securing the building.

“Three ground vehicles were stolen, as well as various tools. Two hangers were also entered with damage being caused.

“Three buggies are valued at more than £30,000 in total that were used by club members to get around the airfield. To get to the buggies the thieves moved some of the gliders, causing more than £20,000 of damage in the process to their wings and rudders.

“Two of the vehicles were John Dere Gator buggies and one was a Kawasaki buggy.”

Police are appealing for anyone with information to call 101 quoting 0260 of 05/06/14.

These incidents have occurred amid the gliding club’s big campaign to stop Farnborough Airport from changing flight paths and flying heights across an area of the South Downs.