A mother-of-two yesterday paid tribute to a teenage pilot who died when his singleengined plane crashed into a children's park.
Louise Sutherland, aged 28, said she thought 16-year-old Sam Cross had deliberately crashed the Cessna onto a cricket pitch in the park in Southend, Essex, to avoid hitting any people or buildings.
Miss Sutherland and her two daughters aged five and seven were the only people in the park when the plane came down at around 4pm on Wednesday.
She said the pilot, who was on his second solo flight after 15 hours of flying time, appeared to be aiming at the centre of the field and away from a play area and nearby homes.
"I saw the plane coming down," she said. "It seemed to be aiming at the centre of the field. I pushed my daughters into some bushes and ran to see if I could help.
"I don't know whether he could see us or not, but it certainly seemed to be aiming at the centre of the field.
"I think he is a very brave boy indeed and he must have been a very mature boy to do what he did."
Sam, from Hornchurch, Essex, was pronounced dead at the scene. No one on the ground was injured.
The teenager was a member of Seawing Flying Club based at Southend Airport and was described by his instructor as an "accomplished student".
Ian Chandler, chairman of the flying club, said it was the first death it had experienced in 30 years of flying planes.
"Our thoughts are with the family and we offer them our sincere condolences," he said. "His father was at the airport when the accident happened. It was very distressing for him and for everyone at the club."
East of England Ambulance Service spokesman Murray Macgregor praised the teenager for his quick-thinking.
"He managed to put the plane down so that no one else was hurt," he said. "He was obviously thinking of others at the time and that shows real courage."
A Civil Aviation Authority spokesman said the minimum age to fly a plane solo is 16, although people can take flying lessons at any age.