Gillingham crash inquest: No mechanical faults on helicopter
PUBLISHED: 15:02 14 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:05 14 January 2016
No mechanical defects were found on a helicopter which crashed in Gillingham killing Tory peer and multi-millionaire Lord Ballyedmond and three others, an inquest has heard.
Lord Ballyedmond, also known as Dr Edward Haughey, was killed when the Agusta Westland AW139 came down shortly after take-off near the estate he owned in Gillingham, Norfolk, on March 13 2014.
Dr Haughey’s foreman, Declan Small, 42, of Mayobridge, Co Down, Northern Ireland; pilot Captain Carl Dickerson, 36, of Thornton, Lancashire; and co-pilot Captain Lee Hoyle, 45, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, also died.
An inquest in Norwich, which is expected to conclude on Friday, heard evidence from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) on Thursday.
Senior investigator Mark Jarvis, who inspected the wreckage, said there was no evidence that the helicopter was damaged before the crash.
“The helicopter was behaving normally and had no identifiable defects which would have affected the flight,” he added.
Earlier the inquest was shown mobile phone footage of the helicopter taking off in thick fog.
The person filming is heard remarking: “They’re taking off blind.”
Flight Lieutenant Ian Smith, an on-call RAF search and rescue pilot at Wattisham airfield, Suffolk, said that he was sent to the scene of the crash.
But he added the fog was so thick that, even with military equipment, he could not land.
The inquest has heard Mr Dickerson had warned the helicopter needed to take off “no later than 7pm” because of bad weather.
It did not in fact take off until 7.22pm as Dr Haughey oversaw the hanging of pictures as part of his renovation of Gillingham Hall.
Dr Haughey, 70, who lived at Ballyedmond Castle in Co Down, Northern Ireland, was considered to be one of Ireland’s richest men, with estimated wealth in excess of £800 million.
Best known as chairman and founder of Norbrook Laboratories, the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world, father-of-three Dr Haughey had a range of other business interests.
A life peer with a seat in the House of Lords, first on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party before switching to the Conservative Party, he had also previously sat in the upper house of the Republic of Ireland’s parliament, the Seanad.
Coroner Jacqueline Lake said the inquest would focus on events leading up to take-off, the training of the pilots, particularly when taking off in low visibility, the weather conditions and the regulation of private helicopters.