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Keighley pilot killed in Florida burning plane crash
A pilot from the district was killed when his plane crashed in flames in Florida.
Steven Waller, 65, from Keighley, died – along with a friend and his friend’s son.
The plane’s impact in a car park at Fort Lauderdale set about a dozen vehicles ablaze.
Mr Waller – born at Keighley’s former St John’s Hospital – was a professional pilot and flew light aircraft for private companies.
Last Friday he was at the controls of a twin-engine propeller plane when it developed engine trouble.
He tried to make an emergency landing shortly after take-off from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
The cause of the crash, which killed Mr Waller, along with Wally Watson and his son, Kevin Watson, is under investigation.
Mr Waller’s aunt, Elizabeth Vasey, 70, who lives at Laithe Close, Silsden, said Steven’s family was devastated by the tragedy.
She said it could be months before the investigation’s findings were revealed.
She added: “Steven was great – very tall, good looking and charismatic.
“He left Keighley when he was young but he used to come back every summer and called this place home. It didn’t matter where he went, he was always a Yorkshireman.”
His widow, Kim Waller, told an American news network she was in shock over the death of her husband of 16 years.
She said: “He meant everything to me. He was an excellent pilot. He would do anything for anyone.
“He was just helping a friend, doing a favour. I know Steven would never have taken that plane up if he had had any doubts whatsoever with it. But then he wouldn’t have known the mechanics, because he didn’t own that aircraft.
“He never took chances. He double and triple-checked everything he did.”
Mr Waller, an only child, was born in 1947 to parents Hazel and Roy. He was the grandson of footballer Clarkson Baldwin, who captained the Silsden team in the year they won the Keighley Charity Cup 100 years ago.
Mr Waller was educated in Liverpool then joined the army as a teenager, serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers for ten years. He was stationed in Germany and Hong Kong and qualified as a diver and underwater welder.
After he left the forces he was a metallurgist in Germany, where he met his first wife, Helga. The couple had one daughter, Indra, but later divorced.
Mrs Vasey said her nephew moved to America about 20 years ago, which is where he gained his pilot’s licence.
He leaves behind his second wife, Kim, as well as his daughter in Germany. His mother, Hazel, lives in Liverpool, his father in Australia.
Mrs Vasey said Steven had flown clients across the Atlantic, as well as to destinations like Bermuda and Brazil.