A mountain rescue volunteer was killed when his light aircraft crashed yesterday.
David Watt, 64, died when the aeroplane he was flying crashed in a field near his home at Ladthwaite, Hartley, Kirkby Stephen, about 8pm.
Mr Watt, a retired dentist, had been a member of the Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team for 30 years and was a search and rescue dog handler.
Team leader Arthur Littlefair today paid tribute to his colleague, whom he described as a dedicated member of the team.
Mr Littlefair, speaking on behalf of the man’s family, said: “David was a greatly valued member of Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team having served as a volunteer for over 30 years.
“He brought dedication, commitment and enthusiasm to his role and his death has come as a great shock to his family, colleagues and friends.
“David was a skilled search dog handler with Lakes Search and Rescue Dogs Association with the experience that comes from years of training and many call outs. He was passionate about flying and he was piloting an aircraft that he had built himself from kit form when he died.
“This was the second aircraft he had built, and he was in the process of building a third. He was also a member of Skywatch – a group of amateur pilots who use their aircraft to offer air search facilities if emergency services require them.
“David was well respected within his community after serving as a local dentist for many years until his recent retirement. He was a man of real character and people liked him for his engaging personality. He often adopted an individual approach to tasks in hand and will be well remembered for being generous with his time amongst the community.
“He retained a professional interest in forensic dentistry and used his skills for the benefit of others in third world countries such as Africa and Nepal.”
Mr Littlefair said he also sang with choirs in the town and was a member of the Probus club, a group of retired professional and business people.
“David leaves behind his wife, Annette, his daughter Alison, and his son Andrew who is also a commercial pilot,” he added. “Everybody knew David and our, and the community’s, thoughts are with his family during this awful time.
“Tributes are coming in quickly from Mountain Rescue Team members from all over the Lake District and beyond, which we hope will provide some comfort to his family.
“He was greatly loved and will be sorely missed by his family and the local community.”
Mr Watt was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident last night. The Air Accidents Investigations Branch examined the site of the crash this morning and the coroner has been informed.
As well as his service with the mountain rescue team, Mr Watt had 20 years experience in training search dogs and worked with his current dog Flash.
He took part in many search and rescue operations and was also interested in advanced dog work in buildings and rubble, water searching and attended to rail crashes and a Glasgow factory disaster.