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Lord Ballyedmond fatal helicopter crash ruled accidental

An inquest into the helicopter crash which killed Lord Ballyedmond and three others has ruled it was an accident. Picture by PA Wire
Ben Kendall, Press Association

AN inquest jury has ruled that a helicopter crash which killed Co Down multi-millionaire Lord Ballyedmond and three others was an accident.

Lord Ballyedmond, also known as Dr Edward Haughey, was killed when the AgustaWestland AW139 came down in a field in heavy fog shortly after take-off from the estate he owned in Gillingham, Norfolk, on March 13 2014.

The Tory peer's foreman, Declan Small (42) from Mayobridge, pilot Captain Carl Dickerson (36) from Lancashire and co-pilot Captain Lee Hoyle (45) from Cheshire, also died.

At the jury inquest in Norwich coroner Jacqueline Lake expressed her sympathies to family members, including Dr Haughey's wife Lady Ballyedmond, son Edward Haughey and the pilot's wives, who were in court throughout.

During the final day of the inquest in Norwich on Friday, excerpts of a cockpit recording were read out.

In it, one of the pilots, who cannot be identified from the recording, is heard saying: "I don't mind telling you I'm not very happy about lifting out of here."

The other pilot replied: "It should be okay ... because you can still see the moon."

Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) expert Tim Atkinson said that had the helicopter been at a licensed aerodrome, it would not have been allowed to take off in such fog.

Private helipads are not subject to such regulations.

Another AAIB investigator, Peter Wivell, said the pilot may have suffered from an optical illusion caused by the fog.

A lack of visual cues could have caused him to become disorientated and he may have felt like he was pitching up when he was in fact flying level meaning he over-corrected and steered the nose down.

No mechanical defects were found on the helicopter, he added.

Earlier this week the inquest was shown mobile phone footage of the helicopter taking off.

The person filming is heard remarking: "They're taking off blind."

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.

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