‘Balloon contributed to fatal RAF helicopter crash in Afghanistan’
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