A COMPUTER software tycoon who watched helplessly as his son plunged to his death in a glider in Spain, told an inquest in Dorchester of their final moments together.

Phillip Ward Lever, and his son Phillip Carr Lever, 31, of Oak House, Iwerne Minster, near Blandford, were co-piloting a two-man glider on July 31, 2000, when the aircraft spiralled out of control in the mountains of El Campillo de la Jara in Spain.

Mr Lever senior said their Nimbus 4DT glider must have hit a strong thermal and went into a spin 3,800m above sea level.

He said: "The next thing I knew we were in a spiral dive... I did what I could to get out of the spiral but suddenly the canopy broke open, there was a loud crack as the wing came off and I shouted to my son to bail out."

He added that he struggled to free himself from the front seat's reclining position, jumped and as he parachuted he turned looking for his son but could not see another parachute.

Mr Lever said he landed safely on some shrubs and found his son entangled with the glider.

The inquest heard that the pair were both experienced pilots and had enjoyed an "outstandingly good day" together before the crash in good conditions but had turned back to Ocana aerodrome at about 5pm when weather conditions deteriorated.

In a statement, Dr Khaled Jaber, who was a consultant pathologist at Dorset County Hospital at the time of the accident, said Phillip had died of a severe cranial fracture.

West Dorset coroner Michael Johnston said the inquest had been delayed for seven years while the Spanish civil aviation authority prepared very thorough reports. These showed that the aircraft was one of the highest performance gliders available at the time but not designed for acrobatics, and the crash had been the fault of aerodynamic overloads rather than design.

Mr Johnston said Mr Lever junior had managed to jump from the aircraft but became entangled in the canopy and tragically died. He recorded a verdict of accidental death.