VILLAGERS yesterday remembered the day their community was shattered by a horrific aircraft crash.

Two airmen from RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire were killed when their Hawk jet hit a railway bridge and exploded on the outskirts of Shap, Cumbria, ten years ago.

Squadron Leader Mike Andrews, 38, from Hampshire, and co-pilot, Flight Lieutenant Steve Todd, 28, originally from Darlington, died instantly and wreckage peppered the village outskirts.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, which happened during a routine training exercise, the two were hailed as heroes by villagers for avoiding homes before hitting the ground.

And the following year a plaque and a bench dedicated to the men were unveiled as a permanent memorial.

Yesterday, almost ten years to the day since the disaster, villagers, RAF personnel and cadets took part in a memorial service at St Michael’s Parish Church.

Among those taking part was local van driver Colin Murray who had a miraculous escape when debris from the jet smashed into the roof of his van. Also there was parish council chairwoman Jean Jackson, who vividly remembers the crash, which happened as she was driving into the village at lunchtime on October 22, 1999.

“The spotlight was very much on Shap and for some time afterwards but all we, the villagers, were concerned with was the fact that two men had lost their lives,” she said.

“I remember meeting the mother and father of one of the men and they were fiercely proud of him.”

Following yesterday’s service a parade of uniformed cadets matched to the crash site where prayers were said.

The funeral of Flt Lt Todd, who lived in an RAF house, in Leeming, with his wife, Hannah, was held two weeks after the smash, at the church where he was christened – Holy Trinity, in Darlington.

At the RAF College, in Cranwell, Lincolnshire, he had won the sword of merit as the cadet with the most outstanding officer potential. A fast jet pilot since 1994, he had been based at Leeming for 15 months.

Air accident investigators later ruled out mechanical failure or weather conditions and concluded the pilots may have been distracted by another aircraft in an unusual position.