‘Bal­loon con­trib­uted to fa­tal RAF he­li­copter crash in Afghanistan’

Western Mail - - NEWS -

THE “close prox­im­ity” of a surveillance bal­loon to a foot­ball pitch in Afghanistan on which a Royal Air Force he­li­copter crashed when try­ing to land con­trib­uted to the deaths of five peo­ple, a coroner has con­cluded.

Flight Lieu­tenants Alan Scott and Geraint “Roly” Roberts died af­ter the Puma Mk 2 he­li­copter col­lided with the bal­loon’s tether and crashed near Nato’s Res­o­lute Sup­port (RS) mis­sion head­quar­ters in the Afghan cap­i­tal, Kabul, on Oc­to­ber 11, 2015.

They were among the five peo­ple killed, which in­cluded 44-year-old French-born se­cu­rity worker Gor­don Emin and two US per­son­nel. Five oth­ers were also in­jured.

An in­quest at Ox­ford­shire Coroner’s Court heard the Puma air­craft, fly­ing in for­ma­tion be­hind an­other Puma, had to cir­cle the he­li­copter land­ing site (HLS) be­cause there were peo­ple play­ing foot­ball on it.

In a nar­ra­tive con­clu­sion, Ox­ford­shire coroner Dar­ren Sal­ter said there had been a “loss of sit­u­a­tion aware­ness” and the sec­ond Puma struck the ca­ble teth­er­ing the bal­loon, known as a per­sis­tent threat de­tec­tion sys­tem (PTDS).

This caused the tail ro­tor to fail and the Puma to crash to the ground.

The pi­lot, Flt Lt Scott, 32, from Lon­don, died as a re­sult of “mul­ti­ple in­juries and a closed head in­jury”, while crew­man Flt Lt Roberts, 44, from north Wales, died as a re­sult of a “blunt-force head in­jury”.

Mr Emin’s cause of death was given as a spinal frac­ture. The men’s in­juries were said to be “not sur­viv­able”.

Mr Sal­ter said: “All three died from their in­juries ei­ther on im­pact or very shortly af­ter­wards.

“The deaths were caused ac­ci­den­tally but were con­trib­uted to by the fact that the PTDS was sited in close prox­im­ity to the HLS and there was an un­sat­is­fac­tory sys­tem of man­age­ment at the HLS with re­gard to ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions and clear­ance of the HLS re­sult­ing in the need to go around or over­shoot, which in­creased the risk of a tether strike given its prox­im­ity.”

Speak­ing af­ter­wards, the fam­ily of Mr Emin, who was born in Lyon, France, but lived in Kabul, said they would pur­sue a com­pen­sa­tion claim against the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD).

Flt Lt Scott’s widow, Lisa ,said: “The only so­lace we have from this is that Al died do­ing what he loved, which is a claim that very few peo­ple can make.”

> Flight Lieu­tenants Geraint ‘Roly’ Roberts, left, and Alan Scott

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