Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Helicopter crew 'lucky to be alive'

Four police personnel were injured after a helicopter overturned

A police air crew who escaped major injury when their helicopter flipped upside down on landing in Co Down are lucky to be alive, a senior officer has said.

All four men were able to walk from the wreckage of the overturned Eurocopter Squirrel after it turned over close to the site of last weekend's fatal helicopter crash high up in the Mountains of Mourne.

They had been taking part in the ongoing operation following Saturday`s tragedy near Hilltown, Co Down, in which three men were killed, including a close friend of Prince Charles.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said the helicopter, which is on lease to the force, was working on the final phase of the recovery and mapping exercise.

"This was the last flight as part of that operation," he said. "We believe the helicopter was going to land close to Saturday's crash site when the incident occurred.

"The helicopter turned upside down but all four people on board were able to get out. They are lucky to be alive."

Bad weather prevented the shaken crew members - a pilot, photographer, observer and emergency team officer - being taken off the mountainside immediately and they were treated in tents for three hours until a RAF rescue helicopter was finally given the all clear to bring them to hospital.

Asst Chief Constable Finlay said one of the men had sustained a head injury but it and the other men's injuries were not serious.

Saturday`s accident on the same mountain claimed the lives of Charles Stisted, Ian Wooldridge and their pilot, who has yet to be named. They were flying back to England after taking part in a shooting hunt at Baronscourt country estate in Co Tyrone.

Asst Chief Constable Finlay thanked all those involved in getting the injured men off the mountain: "Today's operation was also very difficult," he said. "It was a massive multi-agency operation and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the Ambulance Service, the RAF, Coastguard, Mourne Mountain Rescue and the Irish Coastguard for their assistance."

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