Family pay tribute to dead helicopter pilot
Crash: Man killed in island loch plunge was ‘larger than life’
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