Girl, 16, died ‘trying to avoid repeating mistake’ in hang-glider

A teenager who died in a hang-gliding crash on her first day of solo flying may have lost control because she was worried she might repeat what she perceived as a previous mistake, an inquest has heard.

Lois Preston, 16, was killed on her second solo flight at Darley Moor Airfield in Derbyshire when she plunged to the ground and sustained a fatal head injury.

An inquest into her death at Derby Coroner’s Court heard how the high school student, who was from Great Sankey in Warrington, Cheshire, had caught the “flying bug” during holidays with her parents Mark and Susan, who were not present at the inquest.

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She subsequently undertook a number of training courses and tandem flights and became a proficient paraglider pilot before turning her attention to hang-gliding.

On October 28, 2011, Lois experienced a small amount of oscillation during her first solo flight at Darley Moor, which she corrected by levelling the glider and managed to land successfully.

Her instructor, Judith Leden, was with her at the time and told the inquest, which was in front of a jury: “It was absolutely flawless.”

Mrs Leden said afterwards, Lois said she thought she had over-corrected and told her: “I know what I did wrong and it won’t happen again.” It may have been this mindset which led to her being unable to rectify and recover from rolling to the left on her second flight, the inquest heard.

Mrs Leden said she towed Lois in a light aircraft on take-off before releasing the line which attached the two so the teenager could pilot the hang-glider herself.

“She took off slightly crooked just above the ground, her wing dipped slightly,” Mrs Leden said. “The glider started to go off and she was not making any movement to correct it.”

Asked by assistant deputy coroner Paul McCandless why she thought Lois did not attempt to shift her weight and rectify the glider’s position, Mrs Leden said: “She was very determined to get things right and having perceived she had done it wrong by over-correcting she would have done the opposite by staying very, very still, by not correcting.”

Lois was taken to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham after the accident but died from her injuries.

Representatives from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) told the inquest the tow rope used that day was slightly too short, as was the “hooking weight”, meaning that Lois was towards the lighter end of necessary requirements for the glider, but neither were likely to have prevented the incident.

The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.