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Star Joanna Lumley opens up on grief after ‘funny and daring’ paramotor pilot died in Highlands collision

Dan Burton, Joanna Lumley and Sacha Dench

Joanna Lumley has shared her grief and shock over pilot and photographer Dan Burton’s death while the pair filmed a climate crisis documentary.

The adventure filmmaker was killed and climate change activist, Sacha Dench, was seriously injured when their paramotors crashed to the ground after an apparent collision in the Highlands.

Ms Dench is currently recovering in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary from the critical injuries she sustained during the crash on September 18 at Loch Na Gainmhich in Sutherland, south of Unapool,

The actress recently visited the hospital to commend its members of staff. 

How did it happen?

Having planned a daring 3,000-mile journey around the British coast, Sacha Dench had hoped to draw attention to the climate crisis ahead of COP26. 

Reaching out to the actor and environmental activist, they planned their documentary and Miss Lumley spent months watching her soar the British skies.

Just days away from their journey’s end, Ms Dench and Mr Burton collided in mid-air in the Western Highlands.

Miss Lumley wasn’t filming with them when the accident happened, but today remembers.

Dan Burton and Sacha Dench.

Speaking to the Radio Times, she said: “The shock was so vivid because it seemed such a short time since I’d been with them both.

“We’ve all encountered sudden death, and the sense of disbelief – you can’t quite process it. I couldn’t believe Dan would be with us no more.”

Unsure if the documentary should be shown, the project was thrown into limbo.

However, the families of both Dan Burton and Sacha Dench wanted their work to be seen by as many people as possible.

The 75-year-old added: “Dan’s family bravely insisted that we complete the film, and Sacha sent a message, despite her critical injuries, saying, ‘Get the film finished.’ I was terribly moved.”

Dedicated to Mr Burton, the documentary follows problems such as coastal erosion and the plastic waste that litters our beaches.

“Unbelievably funny”

Ahead of COP26 and the film being aired, the legendary actor said Mr Burton was “wonderful”, “funny and daring.”

Recalling him as a force of nature, she said: “He was unbelievably funny.

“I just know he would have been the naughtiest boy in school; he had that quality about him.

World-famous British actress and activist Joanna Lumley

“The message they wanted to put out there is that each of us must do our bit, but ahead of COP26 we’ve got to force the governments to work together globally, too.

“We’ve got to say, ‘The world is ours, the world belongs to all of our countries and nations.’ This is the first time we’ve ever gathered together to say, ‘How do we stop the house burning down?'”

Summing up she stated that she passionately believes we all need to consume less – whether it’s clothes, food or energy.

Dramatic though it may sound, she also wonders if our current circumstances may in time require a war footing, with change enforced from above for the greater good.

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