Ex-air cadet raised F-15 crash alarm

Nick Fletcher was first on the scene.
Nick Fletcher was first on the scene.
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The bravery of a 20-year-old, who ran within 20 feet of a crashed American F-15 fighter plane in Weston Hills and was first to alert the emergency services, has been revealed in an interview with the Free Press.

The bravery of a 20-year-old, who ran within 20 feet of a crashed American F-15 fighter plane in Weston Hills and was first to alert the emergency services, has been revealed in an interview with the Free Press.

Former air cadet Nick Fletcher described the moment he saw the aircraft spiralling out of control – but says he cannot understand why his family are so proud of him or their concern in the hours before they were sure he was safe.

Nick was cycling home to Woodgate Road in Moulton Chapel from the shift he started at 4am at Morrisons’ abattoir when he heard a loud rumble in the sky. He said: “I live in a fly zone and see a lot of F-15 training exercises, but the noise was louder than usual.

“I saw the plane spiralling and assumed it was going for a stall start, but it kept going down. After the rumble there was no noise, then a bang, flames and smoke. It had crashed about 50 feet from me.

“My immediate concern was for any pilots and I dumped my bike, dropped my bag and legged it across the field, calling the emergency services and the MOD.

“I got within 20 feet and could see there were no missiles on board. The cockpit was on fire and the plane had snapped in half, but the rest of it was intact. If there had been missiles on board there would have been nothing left.

“I saw there were two chutes near Baytree Garden Centre, but heard later at the Jolly Farmer pub which the RAF were using that there was just one pilot and he was safe.”

Nick said there might have been a louder explosion when the crash happened had the field not been so wet and muddy and he was able to stay close to the burning wreckage until the police arrived and moved him away.

He said: “They were on the scene in about 20 minutes – the ambulance came later. When I was asked to leave, I got back on my bike and cycled home.

“I don’t think I was particularly brave – I just did what anyone would have done. My priority was to make sure no-one was hurt.

“I was probably able to assess the situation because of my training with the Spalding 1406 Squadron Air Cadets. I’ve been interested in joining the RAF for as long as I can remember and I keep up-to-date with what is happening.

“I’m training now to build up my physical fitness so I can apply to join up in the next few months.

“It’s a childhood dream and this hasn’t put me off. I’ve always wanted to do my bit and want to be a regiment gunner.

“Guys (servicemen) are risking their lives all the time so we can have a good life. Why shouldn’t I do the same?”

Mum Sherral Stratton was at work at Turners in Bicker when she heard about the F-15 crash near her home.

She said: “I knew Nick would be cycling back from work and I was frantic with worry about where he was.

“I rang his mobile but didn’t get a response and it wasn’t until 7pm that I was able to speak to a neighbour to check if his bicycle was back home.

“When I did speak to him and found out the crash had happened right next to him and that he had been on the scene and raised the alarm to the emergency services, the twinge of panic started all over again because of what could have happened.

“I really don’t think he knew he had put himself in danger and how brave he was.

“He said he was upset because a lot of people had stopped in their cars and were taking pictures, but no-one was doing what he did.

“He knew to call the emergency services and the MOD because of his air cadet training and we are all so proud of him.

“I’ve spoken to his ex-CO at the air cadets, who is also really proud of him.

“He said it’s been a good grounding for what he wants to do.

“Even after this, I’ll support Nick with his application for the RAF.

“It’s what he has always wanted to do and will give him a career and a structured life. It is what he deserves.”