THE broken remains of an aircraft which plunged into Liverpool Bay killing the pilot and his wife were raised from the seabed yesterday.

A 200ft sea-going crane lifted the Piper Cherokee from eight metres of water at the crash site, two-miles off the coast of Wallasey.

The light aircraft plunged into the sea on Sunday afternoon, killing Martin Gardner and his wife Nora, both from Haydock.

Shortly before 1pm yesterday the remains of their single engine plane were lifted from beneath the waves.

Both wings had been torn off on impact and were raised separately along with two sections of the undercarriage. The fuselage had a large gash torn out of its right side.

The wreckage was lowered on to the deck of the Mersey Mammoth crane and taken up the Mersey to a storage facility at Canada Dock.

A team of investigators from the Department of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Branch last night prepared to transport the remains to their headquarters at Farnborough Airfield, Hampshire.

They will then attempt to rebuild the aircraft in an effort to work out why it crashed.

Eric Leatherbarrow, a spokesman for Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, said: "Divers went down to the aircraft at low tide on Monday to put slings around it.

"We were then able to use the Mersey Mammoth to lift it. It was taken to a road transporter so the AAIB can take it back to their headquarters.

"The crane is the largest sea-going crane on the west coast and can lift up to 250 tonnes."

The AAIB will examine the wreckage along with the aircraft's flight path and transcripts of Mr Gardner's conversations with air traffic controllers at Liverpool Airport.

An AAIB spokesman said: "A final report will be produced but there is no way of knowing how long that process will take."

Mr and Mrs Gardner, both 56, were due to go on holiday to Brittany this week, along with Mr Gardner's brother, who lives in London.

The couple helped organise many of the social events held by Cheshire Air Training School at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

Mr Gardner was a service manager for Renault Trucks in Carlisle and had been flying for more than 12 years. Mrs Gardner, who has family in the Irish Republic, was a care assistant for elderly people, and recently began training to counsel older people with mental health problems.

Neighbour Maurice Haselden, 68, said: "They were exactly the type of neighbours you would want.

"Nora looked after people in the maisonettes across the road. Martin was a thoroughly nice fellow.

"They had lived here for about 20 years and really got on with people." Mr Gardner's close friend Rod Geeson, 56, chief instructor at the Cheshire Air Training School, said: "Nora was an inspiration to everybody and like her husband didn't have a bad bone in her body.

"She just loved helping people and making them happy. That is why she did the job she did."

He added that the reasons for the crash were still a mystery.

"Martin would have trained to deal with an emergency situation. Before the crash happened he said 'I have lost power' after making a Mayday call," he said.

"We cannot know what happened next and that is up to the accident investigation team." pTWO people died yesterday when a helicopter and a light aircraft apparently collided in mid-air, police said.

The accident, in which two other people were also injured, happened in Welham Green, Hertfordshire, just before 1pm.