Pilot dies in copter crash
Tragedy as man, 58, plunges into loch while transporting containers
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