Pi­lot dies in copter crash

Tragedy as man, 58, plunges into loch while trans­port­ing con­tain­ers

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SCOTT MACLEN­NAN, CHRIS MACLEN­NAN AND JAMIE MCKEN­ZIE

A 58-year-old pi­lot has died af­ter the he­li­copter he was fly­ing crashed into a Western Isles loch yes­ter­day.

Emer­gency and Coast­guard teams were sent to Loch Sca­davay in North Uist at 10.15am af­ter the AS350 squir­rel air­craft plunged into the wa­ter.

The air­craft, which had just one per­son on board, was trans­port­ing con­tain­ers in con­nec­tion with a nearby fish farm.

An Air Ac­ci­dents In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch spokesman said a team of five peo­ple, in­clud­ing three in­spec­tors, has been sent to in­ves­ti­gate the ac­ci­dent and is ex­pected to ar­rive to­day. The spokesman said their “pri­or­ity” is to doc­u­ment and pre­serve phys­i­cal ev­i­dence from the air­craft and de­tails such as ground marks and fuel sam­ples and speak to wit­nesses. The wreck­age will usu­ally then be re­cov­ered and taken to a fa­cil­ity in Farn­bor­ough.

Last night, Western Isles MP An­gus MacNeil said: “It is ex­tremely sad news and my heart goes out to the fam­ily and friends of the per­son in­volved.

“They were also do­ing an im­por­tant job for the is­lands at the time.”

Chief Inspector Ian Gra­ham, area com­man­der for the Western Isles said: “Firstly, our thoughts are with the man’s fam­ily and the lo­cal com­mu­nity at this dif­fi­cult time. Our in­quiries into this are on­go­ing and we are li­ais­ing with other agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Air Ac­ci­dents In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch, in or­der to es­tab­lish the full cir­cum­stances.

“The A867 be­tween Lochmaddy and Clanach Na Luib has re­opened.”

Po­lice and other emer­gency ser­vices were sent to the scene sev­eral miles from the near­est road yes­ter­day af­ter the alarm was raised at 10.15am.

Coast­guard teams from Stornoway, Ben­bec­ula, Tar­bert, Scal­pay, Gri­m­in­ish and Lochbois­dale went along­side a search and res­cue he­li­copter based in Stornoway.

An am­bu­lance spokesman said they re­ceived a call at about 10.20am and sent two am­bu­lances. A fire ser­vice spokesman said they were called to as­sist the am­bu­lance ser­vice just af­ter 10.25am. Jerry Fran­cis, chief ex­ec­u­tive of PDG Avi­a­tion Ser­vices, con­firmed that the in­ci­dent in­volved an AS350 squir­rel air­craft.

He said: “We are await­ing de­tails of what hap­pened. I donot­knowwhatheightit may have fallen from into the wa­ter. Its re­mains at the loch. We are await­ing fur­ther in­for­ma­tion and we are co-op­er­at­ing with the au­thor­i­ties.

“We have had no other pre­vi­ous ac­ci­dents with this type of he­li­copter.”

It is be­lieved the he­li­copter was op­er­at­ing on be­half of Edinburgh-based Scot­tish Salmon Com­pany, who have a num­ber of sites in the Outer He­brides, in­clud­ing at Lan­gass which has a hatch­ery and is near Loch Sca­davay. The A867 was closed be­tween Lochmaddy and Clachan na Luib un­til mid af­ter­noon, with a di­ver­sion in place via the A865. Lo­ganair flights to and from Ben­bec­ula Air­port were also dis­rupted. Western Isles MSP Alas­dair Al­lan and High­lands and Is­lands MSP Don­ald Cameron also voiced their con­cerns about the in­ci­dent.

CRASH SITE: Loch Sca­davay in North Uist where some of the he­li­copter wreck­age is still vis­i­ble

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