Bal­loon close to pitch con­trib­uted to he­li­copter crash

Yorkshire Post - - 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.”

Flt Lt Scott’s wife Lisa said: “My Al was kind, in­tel­li­gent, de­ter­mined and con­sci­en­tious and we know he could have done great things had his life not been cut so trag­i­cally and un­fairly short.

“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.

“I re­main fiercely proud of Al – hus­band, son, brother, friend and gentle­man. I love him as much as the day we mar­ried and I hope that – some­how – he knows that.”

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