A helicopter pilot should have turned back before he descended into low cloud brought on by a “complex weather system” in the Snowdonia mountains, an inquest has heard.
Five members of a family with strong north Mayo connections died after the helicopter crashed in north Wales in March last year.
According to today’s Irish Times, the inquest in Wales has heard that company director Kevin Burke (56), did not see the fast-approaching Rhinog Fawr Mountain and “inevitably” struck the side of it as he was killed instantly along with wife Ruth (49), brothers Donald (55), and Barry (51), and sister-in-law Sharon (48), who was married to Donald.
The family members, all from the Milton Keynes area, were heading to Dublin on the afternoon of March 29th last year for a surprise party. They were expected days later in the village of Kicummin, Killala where the family have a summer home.
A hearing at Caernarfon in Wales into their deaths yesterday was told that “very experienced” pilot Kevin Burke had set off in good conditions near their home but as they passed North Wales they came across thick cloud and turbulence.
The alarm was raised in the early evening when Mr Burke’s privately owned Twin Squirrel aircraft did not land at Dublin’s Weston Airport at 2.30pm as expected.
Their bodies were later found with the wreckage of the completely destroyed helicopter in the remote Rhinog mountains.
Consultant forensic pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers said all five suffered massive impact trauma from the collision shortly before 1pm and were identified from their dental records.
The inquest was told Mr Burke would fly the Twin Squirrel - which was properly maintained and in good condition - at least once a week for business or pleasure.
In conclusion, HM Senior Coroner for North West Wales, Dewi PritchardJones, said Mr Burke’s training and licence was for flying in conditions where he was able to see the terrain and that “ideally” he should have turned back in the thick cloud.
Recording verdicts of misadventure for all five deceased, he said: “Here we have a situation of sheer bad luck. This aircraft was not greatly below its safe height. It just clipped the mountainside.”
Family members attended and were legally represented but declined to comment at the end of the inquest.