A NORTH Yorkshire TV producer and photographer who has been at the centre of some of the world's biggest disasters found himself in the middle of another tragedy while on holiday in America.

Paul Berriff, from Bedale, who was knocked unconscious when the World Trade Center's twin towers collapsed on top of him during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and who was recording with the rescue helicopters when the Piper Alpha oil platform exploded, was at his holiday home in Venice, Florida, when a light aircraft crashed onto a nearby beach.

He rushed to the scene with fire fighters to find the plane had hit a number of people, killing one man and badly injuring his daughter.

Loading article content

Mr Berriff said: "It was a real tragedy, the plane came down a mile from the nearest road and the emergency services had to run along the beach to the scene. I believe the man who was killed was walking on the beach with his daughter when the plane hit them."

According to news reports in America, the man was walking along Caspersen Beach, near Venice Beach, with his nine year old daughter when they were struck by the plane or by debris as it crash landed.

It is thought the engines had stalled and they did not hear the stricken plane approaching. The girl was critically injured and airlifted to hospital.

The pilot of the 1972 Piper Cherokee, a 57-year-old man and his 60-year-old passenger, were not injured in the crash. An investigation has been launched by the National Transportation and Safety Board.

Mr Berriff, who runs his film production business from the Craft Yard in Bedale, said: "It’s incredible, wherever I go in the world things just happen around me.

"Here I am in a very quiet part of Florida and a plane crashes on to our beach, it’s just unbelievable, and such a sad day.”

The 67-year-old has travelled the world working with such famous names as The Beatles and covering some of the biggest news stories of modern times. He has built up a reputation for being a magnet for major world news stories. He won a Bafta earlier this year for a programme marking the 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, telling the stories of the survivors, many of whom he filmed on the night of the disaster.

During his career he has also survived a helicopter crash in Scotland, leapt to safety from a sinking ship during a North Sea gale, and was blown off the side of a volcano in Nicaragua.