Fam­ily’s trib­ute to pi­lot killed in crash

Aberdeen­shire man was ‘larger than life’

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMIE MCKEN­ZIE

A griev­ing fam­ily has de­scribed the loss of a “larger than life” fa­ther and pi­lot who was killed in a he­li­copter crash in the Western Isles.

Peter Clu­nas, from Aberdeen­shire, was the sole per­son on board the AS350 squir­rel he­li­copter, op­er­ated by PDG Avi­a­tion Ser­vices, which plunged into Loch Sca­davay in North Uist on Wednesday morn­ing.

The 59-year-old, who has two sons, had lived in the Black Isle for sev­eral years and had lucky es­capes from two other he­li­copter crashes as a pi­lot in 1993.

A spokes­woman for his em­ployer said Mr Clu­nas, from New­burgh near Ellon, was in­volved in a “load lift­ing” ex­er­cise in re­la­tion to work at a fish farm at the time of the tragedy.

It is un­der­stood he was trans­port­ing a boat.

Yes­ter­day, a state­ment re­leased by Mr Clu­nas’s fam­ily said: “We would like to thank emer­gency ser­vices for all their ef­forts at the scene of the ac­ci­dent.

“Peter was a larger than life char­ac­ter who loved fly­ing. He was a keen cy­clist and swim­mer. He will be missed by all who knew him.”

Air ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors ar­rived at the scene yes­ter­day morn­ing to carry out their in­quiries.

A team of three in­spec­tors and two sup­port staff from the Air Ac­ci­dents In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch will be col­lect­ing and doc­u­ment­ing ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing from the air­craft and de­tails such as ground marks and fuel sam­ples, as well as speak­ing to wit­nesses.

The team will also be gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion such as train­ing records, flight plans, air­craft logs and main­te­nance records.

Ac­cord­ing to his Facebook page, Mr Clu­nas had been work­ing with PDG since Au­gust 2016.

He was also in­volved in a he­li­copter crash in June 1993 in which the Bell Jet Ranger he­li­copter he was fly­ing plunged 60ft into a field in Kin­car­di­neshire, se­ri­ously in­jur­ing him­self and two pas­sen­gers.

The air­craft was on con­tract to Hy­dro-Elec­tric and be­ing used to carry out in­spec­tions on over­head elec­tric­ity ca­bles near In­ver­bervie.

Three months later he was se­ri­ously in­jured af­ter the sin­gle-seat he­li­copter – an AS350 Aerospa­tiale - he was fly­ing came down in a field near Dou­glas in La­nark­shire, while he as­sisted with the re­moval of old elec­tric­ity py­lons.

No blame was ap­por­tioned to Mr Clu­nas by the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity for ei­ther in­ci­dent.

Yes­ter­day, Western Isles area com­man­der, Chief In­spec­tor Ian Gra­ham, said: “Our thoughts re­main with Mr Clu­nas’s fam­ily and friends at this dif­fi­cult time.

“I would also take the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press our thanks to the mem­bers of the pub­lic who as­sisted at the scene dur­ing this tragic in­ci­dent.

“Our in­quiries to es­tab­lish the full cir­cum­stances are on­go­ing and of­fi­cers have been li­ais­ing with part­ner agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Air Ac­ci­dents In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch which has at­tended the scene to­day.”

A spokes­woman for PDG Avi­a­tion Ser­vices said: “It is with great sad­ness that we con­firm the death of one of our pi­lots fol­low­ing the crash of an AS350B2 he­li­copter while un­der­tak­ing load lift­ing.

“We are work­ing closely and tire­lessly with the au­thor­i­ties to iden­tify the cause of the in­ci­dent. Our deep­est sym­pa­thy is with the pi­lot’s fam­ily and friends at this dif­fi­cult time.”

PROBE: AAIB in­spec­tors at the scene of the he­li­copter crash on Loch Sca­davay in which the pi­lot died

Peter Clu­nas died in the he­li­copter crash

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