Chopper pilot’s death was ‘accident’
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