Family farming business could lose £18,000 over jet crash

NO HARVEST: John Clay with tractors and trailers at the ready, but the family farming firm couldn't get to its potato crop at Weston Hills. SG151014-100TW
NO HARVEST: John Clay with tractors and trailers at the ready, but the family farming firm couldn't get to its potato crop at Weston Hills. SG151014-100TW
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A family farming business could lose £18,000 because the American F-15 jet crashed into their potato crop in a field at Weston Hills.

J C Clay and Partners, of Holly House Farm, Whaplode, had hoped to harvest the potatoes last weekend.

But police cordons were placed on roads leading to the site soon after the previous Wednesday’s crash – and part of the field was filled with military personnel – as accident investigators got to work.

Heavy military machinery was brought in yesterday (Wednesday) as the remains of the jet were recovered.

Police said on Tuesday that the roads should be fully open by Saturday, but Tim Clay – a member of the Whaplode farming family – says that may come too late to save the crop of Maris Pipers which have to be harvested at just the right time to achieve the top quality frying potato.

Mr Clay said he understood he would need clearance from the Americans before he could go back on the field and it’s yet to be determined whether part of the land may have been contaminated by fuel and/or oil spillages.

He said: “It (the potato crop) would have been up by the end of last week if this hadn’t happened.

“We have had near an inch-and-a-half of rain and probably more since it happened – it won’t be doing us any favours. We shall just have to wait and see what happens.”

Mr Clay said it will be difficult to harvest around the crash site because the machinery needs to go from end to end in the field, not turn around in the middle.

The family firm now has a third party working for them to discuss compensation.

The field is scheduled to be drilled with winter wheat in the next few days, but that work could also be hindered by the crash.

Insp Jim Tyner said on Tuesday that residents would be able to get in and out of their homes, but not travel past the entrance to the crash site as heavy plant and machinery was moved in yesterday and today to lift the plane.

He said: “It is hoped the recovery phase will be complete and the roads fully open by Saturday.”