THE family of a high-flying Army helicopter pilot who died in a road accident while he was off duty have said he was a “giant of a man”.

James Hassell, aged 36, died at about 9.40am on Saturday morning when his motorcycle was in collision with a truck on the A417 near Faringdon in Oxfordshire.

Mr Hassell, who was a Warrant Officer Class One of the Wild Cat Fielding Team, had served on the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His family said the former Temple Guiting School and Chipping Campden School pupil had always wanted to be a helicopter pilot in the Army.

Pat Salter, Mr Hassell’s stepfather who still lives in Taddington, near Temple Guiting, said: “He left to be in the Army at age 16 and that was his life. James loved all kind of sports, including football and cricket. Then the Army took over and all he wanted to do was to become a helicopter pilot.

“He was part of the elite squad, the Wild Cat Fielding Team, started by the Army, the RAF and the Navy. It was his dream job. He worked his way up but he was still active.”

At the time of his accident Mr Hassell was living with his wife of 12 years, Lily, in Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, Hampshire, and the couple were due to buy their first home today.

“He and Lily were due to complete on their first home on Thursday,” said Mr Salter.

“He was doing things in his life I would never think of doing.

“He was a giant of a man. In the Army everyone knew him as safe hands. They said when you are with James you are safe.

“He will be absolutely missed by the whole family. We are all 110 per cent proud of him.”

A military funeral for Mr Hassell will take place at Salisbury Cathedral on Monday, March 26, at 2pm, followed by a private cremation.