A 1980s television celebrity couple were badly injured in a helicopter crash in Gloucestershire 30 years ago today.
The helicopter was being flown by Radio DJ and TV presented Mike Smith, with his girlfriend and fellow TV presenter Sarah Greene as his passenger. Mr Smith, who qualified as pilot seven months earlier, was circling an unfamiliar landing site to make sure it was safe when his privately-owned helicopter suddenly lost power and smashed into trees before hitting the ground.
Both of them survived the crash on September 10th, 1988, but Mr Smith suffered a broken back and ankle while Miss Greene broke both legs and an arm and a gash to her face. With the celebrity couple at the peak of their careers the crash was big news and reporters soon converged on the nearby hospital where their condition was said to be ‘satisfactory’.
Eyewitnesses said it sounded as if the helicopter, a Robinson R22, had experienced a sudden and complete loss of power before hitting the trees. One woman, whose husband helped pull the couple from the wreckage, told reporters: “We were watching it arrive – the helicopter circled and the next moment it fell and we heard a crash.”
She said her husband and another man had run to the wreckage fearing it might explode. They managed to rescue the two TV presenters, who were conscious but in considerable pain from their injuries. They had been on their way to visit friends near Cheltenham when the accident happened.
Miss Greene got her big break in TV presenting long-running children’s show Blue Peter for three years, going on to co-present “Saturday Superstore” with DJ Mike Read and then “Going Live!” with up-and-coming children’s presenter Philip Schofield. Mike Smith made his name as a DJ on BBC Radio 1 and Capital Radio, but also moved into television presenting “Top of the Pops” and as one of the presenting team on “BBC Breakfast Time”.
Both presenters remained in hospital for almost four weeks following the accident and Miss Greene was still in plaster when she returned to presenting “Going Live!”. They became engaged soon after the crash and were married a year later. During the 1990s the couple were gradually seen less on TV.
Miss Greene made the transition to presenting adult programming, appearing on various terrestrial and satellite channels. In 2017 she guest presented several episodes of ITV’s “This Morning” programme alongside her long-time friend Philip Schofield. Mr Smith diversified into business, setting up a highly successful aerial filming company, supplying aerial footage filmed from helicopters to many leading broadcasters.
Sadly, he died in August 2014 at the age of 59 after complications following major heart surgery. It was reported that he left more than a million pounds from his personal estate to Miss Greene, his wife of 25 years.
An official investigation into the helicopter crash proved inconclusive. After a forensic examination of the wreckage, investigators found no obvious cause for the sudden engine failure, but neither did they blame pilot error.