Peer killed in crash had raised helicopter safety concerns

The wreckage of a helicopter alongside the A146

The wreckage of a helicopter alongside the A146

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A PEER killed in a helicopter crash had raised safety concerns with the aircraft’s manufacturers.

Lord Ballyedmond, one of the richest men in Northern Ireland, was chairman of Norbrook, the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world.

His AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, at 7.30pm yesterday killing him and three others.

It has now emerged that his company Haughey Air Ltd had lodged a writ against Agusta
Westland over concerns about a helicopter supplied by them.

The case was lodged in September last year and is understood to have included concerns about in-flight mapping systems.

A spokesman for AgustaWestland said it could not comment on possible defects with Lord Ballyedmond’s AW139 VIP helicopter but said it was investigating.

Speaking from the company’s office in Italy, he said: “We cannot comment now because we need to make internal checks to 
establish exactly what the situation is.

“We cannot yet comment on this accident because there is an investigation pending and there could be many causes, be them technical or due to human error.

“Obviously we are very much regretful of what happened and will support the ongoing investigation in any possible way.”

In February 2012 an inquest heard in-flight technology systems on board AgustaWestland helicopters should be improved after a crash which killed a friend of the Prince of Wales. The mapping databases display the height of terrain like mountains and whether certain areas are available to fly through but the four-day inquest in Belfast highlighted flaws.

The aircraft flew into the side of a cloud-shrouded mountain in the Mourne range, Co Down, in October 2010 as it carried a shooting party back to England.

The probe into the death of three people, including the Prince’s friend Charles Stisted, heard how land above a certain height was not displayed and a prohibition on flying through South Armagh still showed although it was lifted several years earlier.

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