British pilot and wife die after plane crashes in mountain near French Riviera

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  • Tragedy happened in area notorious for air crashes

By Steve Farrell

Last updated at 11:14 PM on 18th June 2011

A record-breaking British stunt driver and her husband have been killed after their plane crashed in the South of France.

Jacqueline Balmer, 53, was in a light aircraft flown by her husband James, 68, when it crashed into a mountain near Monaco on Friday.

Mother-of-two Mrs Balmer, who performed under the name Jacquie de Creed, once held the record for the longest car jump from a ramp, leaping 232ft in a Ford Mustang in 1983.

Tragedy: Jacqueline Balmer, 53, and husband James, 68, who were killed when their light plane crashed into a mountainside on the French Riviera

Tragedy: Jacqueline Balmer, 53, and husband James, 68, who were killed when their light plane crashed into a mountainside on the French Riviera

Stunt driver: Jacqueline Balmer - who went by the stage name Jacquie de Creed appeared in Heinz and Bovril adverts

Stunt driver: Jacqueline Balmer - who went by the stage name Jacquie de Creed appeared in Heinz and Bovril adverts

She also held distance records for driving a car on two wheels and was renowned for smashing vehicles through caravans and leaping over blazing buses.

She and former BBC stunt director Mr Balmer took off from Lucia, Italy, and were flying to Troyes, south of Paris, when radar contact was lost in south-east France.

Wreckage of the twin-engine Piper PA-39 and the bodies of the couple from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, were found four hours later by searchers on Mont Agel.

Dare devil : Mrs Balmer in a stunt with her daughters Lucy, now 21, and Charlotte, now 24

Dare devil : Mrs Balmer in a stunt with her daughters Lucy, now 21, and Charlotte, now 24

A witness who spotted the plane flying at 'very low altitude' had alerted the emergency services. The cause of the crash remained unknown last night.

Local reports suggested that fog, which blanketed the region yesterday morning, may have forced the aircraft to travel at a low level before it crash-landed on private property at an altitude 814 metres.

The area around Mont Agel is notorious among pilots for its mountainous countryside and low-lying clouds.

A spokesman for the Nice-Montagne prefecture said the couple's nationality was established through information stored on their mobile phones.

He added: 'At present we do not know what caused the accident. Investigations are ongoing.'

Notorious: Mont Agel towers over the playground of the rich Monte Carlo

Notorious: Mont Agel towers over the playground of the rich Monte Carlo

Tragedy: The light aircraft crashed near Mont Agnel

Tragedy: The light aircraft crashed near Mont Agnel

Last night their daughter Charlotte, 22, was flying to Britain from Barcelona, where she is studying architecture, to mourn with her sister Lucy, 19, a student at Bangor University.

The Balmers met while filming the Seventies stunt series Disaster Squad for the BBC.

Mrs Balmer was hurt several times and was nearly killed when her car burst into flames on one TV show.

Her stunt partner Dick Sheppard, 52, said: 'Jacquie was completely instinctive and had nerves of steel.'

After retiring from stunt work, Mrs Balmer had done some acting and was writing her autobiography, titled Close To The Edge.

Mr Balmer is understood to have run R Scott & Co menswear shop in Cirencester.

A twin-engined Piper PA-39 like the light plane piloted by James Balmer

A twin-engined Piper PA-39 like the light plane piloted by James Balmer

Lynn Hilditch, 63, who lives near the large detached house the couple owned in Cirencester, described them as friendly people who were well known in the local area.

Mrs Balmer gave talks to members of the community about her work as a stuntwoman, while Mr Balmer's shop was a long-running family business that was something of a local institution, she said.

'It's going to be a real shock to the shop people because it's a very old-fashioned shop that's been run so beautifully for years,' she said. 'He was a lovely guy. I think people spoke very highly of him.'

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