TRIBUTES have been paid to "a good guy" who died in a plane crash just outside Taunton.

Experienced pilot Joe Mann was at the controls of the light aircraft when it came down on farmland near Buckland St Mary.

His passenger, a family friend named only as Margaret, also died in the accident on Thursday morning, August 12.

Mr Mann, 69, leaves a widow, Diane, and four daughter.

Born in Surrey, he began his career in engineering at Westland Helicopters, in Yeovil.

It was there, as a union convener, that he cut his teeth politically during the 1986 'Westland Crisis'.

He was a union member from 1969, holding a number of positions in the TGWU and being elected general secretary of the National League for the Blind and Disabled in 1995.

He became a Labour Party member in 1979 and sat on the National Executive Committee, being instrumental in securing many of the workers' rights we take for granted today.

He became an Exeter city councillor in 1994.

Mr Mann led the merger between ISTC and NLBD unions, now Community, where his roles included regional secretary, national officer, national secretary and deputy general secretary until his retirement in 2014.

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He was also elected to the GFTU National Executive Committee, serving as president in 2012.

In recognition of his work representing and supporting disabled people, he was awarded the MBE in 2000.

Roy Rickhuss, Community general secretary, said: “On behalf of the entirety of Community I want to express my condolences to Diane, Joe’s daughters and everyone affected by his passing.

"Joe was a shining light in the trade union movement and a stalwart of progressive trade unionism.

"Today we celebrate Joe’s life and his incredible legacy.

"His dedication and fortitude led to changes that will impact every worker in the UK for generations.

"His values remain a central part of Community and will shape our union for long into the future.”

Mr Mann, who lived in Tipton St John, Sidmouth, had been on a flight from Watchford Farm, near Yarcombe, where his plane was hangared, when tragedy struck

The emergency services attended the scene of the crash and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch sent a team to investigate.

A report will be issued at a later date and an inquest will be held locally.

Dieter Wyrwoll had been a great friend of Mr Mann for many years.

"Joe was very committed to the Labour Party and knew Tony Blair," said Mr Wyrwoll.

"He was a really nice guy, accessible, amiable, very approachable and good company. Such a lovely bloke.

"I'd had breakfast with him the day before the crash and we discussed our plans to go to Scotland with a group of friends to celebrate his seventieth birthday in October.

"Joe had a number of planes over the years and I'd flown with him many times.

"He was a very talented pilot and even flew aerobatically."