Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Coroner hits out at RAF after fatal helicopter crash

A coroner has criticised the running of an RAF base following a helicopter crash which killed three men.

Coroner Geoff Fell said the running of RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, where the crew of the £20m Puma were based, “left much to be desired”.

Flight Lieutenant David Sale, (28), Phillip Burfoot (27) and Private Sean Tait (17) died in the crash near Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, in August 2007.

The fatal flight was the final trip on a two-day training exercise which saw members of the crew laughing and joking, listening to music over the speaker system and quoting the Tom Cruise film Top Gun.

The coroner said the helicopter's pilot, Flt Lt Sale, may not have had the capability to carry out the risky manoeuvre which led to the crash.

However, he went on to highlight a series of contributing factors to the crash, including the poor administration at the base.

Paperwork was either missing or incomplete and the coroner said it was unclear if the crew were properly qualified for the flight.

Mr Fell said the crew members on the day of the crash were “inexperienced” and were undertaking their first trip without an instructor watching them.

The coroner said most of the flying on the day of the crash “seems to have taken place at less than 100ft”.

He added that the tactical manoeuvres were “excessive in number and irregularity”.

The RAF said it was continuing its own internal investigations into the incident.

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