A British Airways engineer was tragically killed in a runway smash with another airport vehicle at Heathrow.
Colleagues last night paid tribute to ‘kind, generous and chatty’ John Coles, 44, who joined the company nearly three decades ago as an apprentice.
It was also claimed the collision should never have happened because the other vehicle involved, being driven by a BAA (British Airports Authority) worker, should have given way to aircraft engineer Mr Coles, who had just started his shift.
Passengers watched the tragedy unfold at Terminal 5 when Mr Coles’s airport van collided with a pick-up on the tarmac where planes taxi to and from the runway.
He went into cardiac arrest at the scene just after 6am yesterday. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him both at the scene and on the way to hospital but he later died at a West London Hospital.
Mr Coles’s family were last night too devastated to speak about the tragedy at the family home in Broadstone, Dorset, where Mr Coles grew up.
However, one colleague paid tribute, telling the Mail: ‘John was a great friend to us all. He was kind, generous and chatty.
‘He was a gentle, likeable, positive man with lots of ideas for his future.
‘He joined BA as an apprentice in 1989 and so he will now be sorely missed.’
They said Mr Coles was single. Regarding the incident he said the other driver should have given way to Mr Coles.
He added: ‘The yellow BAA (British Airports Authority) vehicle crossed the vehicle taxiway – a safe crossing for cars to cross the aircraft taxiway – lines without giving way to John who was crossing.
‘It’s basically like going through a zebra crossing with pedestrians on. The BAA vehicle must give way to vehicles crossing the live taxiway.
‘John had just started his shift. We are not sure if he was on his way to an aircraft departure or arrival. ‘But witnesses also said the BAA vehicle was going very fast.’
The BAA driver, who was treated at the scene, suffered a suspected broken shoulder.
The airport said it was unable to disclose any details about him, including his job title.
But the distinctive yellow pick-ups with red stripes are often driven around the airfield at high speed by Heathrow staff carrying out tasks such as directing aircraft and inspecting the runways.
British Airways engineers also drive vans around the tarmac to check the planes before take-off and after landing.
No arrests have been made. But officers from the Met police’s serious collision investigation unit have launched an investigation.
The Health and Safety Executive are also investigating.
Colleagues continued to pay tribute to Mr Coles on social media last night with the hash tag ‘#justiceforjohn’.
User ‘Kyle / Springbok97’ wrote: ‘I worked with the guy that died at Heathrow airport today back when I was at BA! Nice guy! Such a shame!…It still hasn’t sunken in #JusticeForJohn’