Chopper pi­lot’s death was ‘ac­ci­dent’

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

A CORO­NER’S jury has ruled that a he­li­copter crash which killed a Mac­cles­field pi­lot and three oth­ers was an ac­ci­dent.

Cap­tain Lee Hoyle, 45, was the co-pi­lot of a pri­vate he­li­copter that came down in thick fog in Gilling­ham, Nor­folk, in 2014.

Cap­tain Carl Dick­er­son, 36, of Thorn­ton, Lan­cashire, was also killed, along­side wealthy Con­ser­va­tive peer Lord Bal­lyed­mond, 70, who was chair­man of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Nor­brook, and De­clan Small, 42, who was a site fore­man at the firm’s plant in Newry, North­ern Ire­land.

On Fri­day a jury in­quest in Nor­wich ruled that their deaths were ac­ci­den­tal.

Father-of-two Cap­tain Hoyle served with The Royal Reg­i­ment of Fusiliers, com­plet­ing tours of the Falk­lands in the late 80s and 90s and serv­ing in the Gulf War.

He had been a co-pi­lot for Lord Bal­lyed­mond’s air travel firm Haughey Air since Oc­to­ber 2012.

Orig­i­nally from Manch­ester, he and his wife, Georgina, an in­te­rior de­signer, had moved to Tyther­ing­ton months be­fore the crash.

The in­quest heard Mr Dick­er­son had warned the he­li­copter needed to take off ‘no later than 7pm’ be­cause of bad weather but it didn’t leave un­til 7.22pm.

At the in­quest cock­pit record­ings heard one of the pi­lots, who can­not be iden­ti­fied from the record­ing, say: “I don’t mind telling you I’m not very happy about lift­ing out of here.”

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.

He said that 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 over­cor­rected and steered the nose down.

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

The in­quest was shown mo­bile phone footage of the he­li­copter tak­ing off and the per­son film­ing re­mark­ing: “They’re tak­ing off blind.”

Cap­tain Hoyle’s wife told the hear­ing Lee was a ‘con­sci­en­tious man’ who would not take chances with safety.

“He was my best friend and los­ing him left our fam­ily dev­as­tated,” she added.

●● Cap­tain Lee Hoyle

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