12 October 2000

Cold medicine could have made crash pilot drowsy

By David Sapsted

The drowsy effects of a cold medicine may have contributed to the crash of a Second World War Spitfire, being flown by a former Royal Navy pilot.

An Air Accident Investigations Branch report said Norman Leas, 49, a senior training captain with Virgin Atlantic, had a significant amount of an antihistamine in his blood when the the crash occurred at Goodwood airfield near Chichester in April.

Greg McCurragh, the owner of the 1944 Spitfire, was under instruction when the aircraft clipped a tree as it attempted to land, killing both men. The report said Mr Lees, from Crawley, who flew helicopters alongside the Duke of York during the Falklands conflict, had been flying several times immediately before taking up the Spitfire.

It said this may have led to a level of fatigue which affected his ability and judgment. "This would have been exacerbated by any drowsiness induced by the use of a preparation containing diphenhydramine".