Former Welwyn Garden City man hopes lightning doesn't strike twice

WOULD-BE pilot Graeme Cooper is one man who is hoping lightning doesn t strike twice. The dad-of-two has signed up for a second gliding lesson, 10 years after he was almost killed by a bolt of lightning during his first. The former Sir Frederic Osborn

WOULD-BE pilot Graeme Cooper is one man who is hoping lightning doesn't strike twice.

The dad-of-two has signed up for a second gliding lesson, 10 years after he was almost killed by a bolt of lightning during his first.

The former Sir Frederic Osborn School pupil was bought a gliding lesson for his 30th birthday by his girlfriend, now wife, Caroline.

But during the last flight of the day with instructor Peter Goldstraw, things took a dramatic turn for the worst.

Graeme said: "In a split second everything had changed.

"I remember talking to Peter when there was a tremendous bang, the plane jolted and it felt as if a missile had hit us.

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"Eyewitnesses said they saw a ball of lightning streak across the sky and hit our glider.

"I quickly realised we were in serious trouble and had to jump out of the glider.

"I was terrified and started shaking, I didn't dare look down.

"I looked to the right and noticed the wing was no longer there.

"I was thinking of my parents, family and girlfriend and what would they think if I was to die."

Luckily for Graeme, his parachute opened and he landed virtually unscathed on the roof of a disused petrol station.

Despite being the subject of many reconstruction programmes, such as Savage Planet and popular BBC show 999, Graeme, whose parents still live in Kingsley Court, WGC, is not worried about taking to the skies again.

"It's been 10 years since that harrowing ordeal," he said.

"I know that it was a freak accident and is unlikely ever to happen again.

"I'm keen to get up there once more, this time I will be flying a loop the loop and a few tight twists and turns as a gentle welcome back to gliding.

"I want it to be memorable flight but I am hoping that it will be slightly less memorable than that of 10 years ago."

Graeme, who is dad to Emily, five, and Rosa, four, has now moved to Taunton and is taking part in his 40th birthday flight to raise cash for the Parkinson's Disease Society which is also celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Graeme's father-in-law Graham has the disease and is also an active fundraiser.

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