The family and friends of a Hollywood computer effects genius are being asked to pay out in a £160,000 lawsuit after he killed himself by deliberately crashing a plane into a field in Kent.
Top cinematographer Dr Christopher Woollard – who helped design the SFX computer that brought dinosaurs to life in the first Jurassic Park movie – took his own life in 2021 after learning he had terminal cancer.
Dr Woollard, 64, was killed in the crash near Ashford, Kent, and when investigators went to his Sidcup home shortly afterwards they found his will ready on a table.
Dr Woollard, who worked on films including Lord of the Rings and 12 Monkeys before becoming a professor at Greenwich and Ravensbourne universities, had been taking flying lessons when he learned of his illness.
Getting into the plane while his instructor was away during a session on September 10 2021, he radioed to describe his intentions before taking off and deliberately crashing the plane into the ground.
Cinematographer Dr Christopher Wollard, 64, deliberately crashed a plane into the ground in 2021 after learning he had terminal cancer
Dr Woollard radioed to tell his flying instructor of his intentions before taking his own life
His estate now faces a £160,000 compensation claim from the plane’s owner, Garry Price, who is suing over the cost of replacing his aircraft and other losses.
As well as being a highly respected academic, Dr Woollard was a member of The British Kinematograph, Sound and Television Society (BKSTS) and British Society of Cinematographers (BSC).
According to documents filed at the High Court, Dr Woollard had been learning to fly with the Skytrek Flying School Limited, based at Rochester Airport, Kent, which had leased the plane from Mr Price.
Barrister Joseph England said: ‘When the instructor went via the air traffic control building to gain flight approval, the deceased proceeded directly to the aircraft, boarded it and, without the instructor on board and without any approval from the operator or air traffic approval, taxied and took-off at around 9am.
‘Prior to taking off, at around 8.58am, the deceased reported over the aircraft’s radio that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and that he wanted to deliberately crash the aircraft.’
In his radio address, he stated: ‘Stuart, just been given three months to live by the cancer unit at Imperial. Unfortunately there is no other way out.
‘I give you my full authorisation to access my bank account, which has more than enough money to buy far more than two times over. Unfortunately this is my only option.’
Radar evidence showed that after departing Rochester Airport, the aircraft was flown to an area south of Ashford before loitering and carrying out a series of turns.
At around 9.44am, a witness a mile from the crash site saw an aircraft entering a sharp descending turn before striking the ground in a field near Ruckinge.
Dr Woollard was a celebrated cinematographer who worked on films including Jurassic Park, The Lord of the Rings and 12 Monkeys
Dr Woollard was tragically killed in the wreck and the assistant coroner at Maidstone recorded a verdict of suicide at his inquest last year.
Written only days before his death, Dr Woollard’s will split his £835,000 estate between a variety of charities, friends and family.
Although Mr Price received an insurance payout, it cost much more to purchase a replacement plane and upgrade it to a similar standard as the destroyed one, he claims.
Mr Price’s barrister said: ‘The claimant claims in conversion or damage to the claimant’s reversionary interest in the aircraft against the defendant by reason of the deceased’s unauthorised misappropriation and/or destruction of the aircraft.’
He said the case involved ‘wilful acts of interference with the aircraft committed without permission or any lawful jurisdiction.’
In a written defence to the claim filed earlier this month, Matthew Reeve KC, representing Dr Woollard’s estate, accepts that the professor was at fault for the aircraft’s loss.
However, he disputes whether Mr Price has ‘title to sue’ if, as he says, he had leased the plane out and so did not have ‘any right to possession of the aircraft at the time it was lost.’
Mr Reeve said: ‘It is admitted that the deceased was at least negligent and that that negligence led to the wrongful destruction of the aircraft for which the estate is liable – subject to the questions of title to sue.’
He also disputes the amount which Mr Price is claiming and says it should be limited to the value of the lost plane, which he has already received from his insurers.
Mr Reeve said: ‘The claimant’s damages claim seems to go far beyond the usual measure of loss and the usual recoverable heads of loss.’
The case will be heard by a judge at a later date, if it is not settled by the parties outside of court.
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Source : https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12015867/Family-CGI-genius-deliberately-crashed-plane-pay-160-000-lawsuit.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490&rand=1270