Belfast Telegraph

Coroner summarises crash evidence

The engine of a helicopter which crashed killing three men, one a friend of the Prince of Wales, was not running smoothly, an inquest has heard.

Residents also said it seemed to be flying low before it hit the ground in the Mourne Mountains, Co Down, a year ago.

The prince's friend Charles Stisted, 47, chief executive of the Guards Polo Club at Windsor, was a passenger on the flight which was on its way back to England after the men attended a shooting party at an estate in Co Tyrone.

Construction company businessman and fellow polo player Ian Wooldridge, 52, and pilot Anthony Smith, 63, formerly of the RAF and army with service in Northern Ireland, also died.

A preliminary hearing was held at Belfast coroner's court.

Coroner John Leckey summarised some of the evidence from residents near the crash site.

"The engine of the helicopter perhaps did not seem to be running smoothly and also seemed to be flying low," he said.

"As we know, the helicopter really disintegrated following the impact with the mountain."

An inquest will be held before a jury in February following the accident, which happened after a shooting session at the Baronscourt estate on the outskirts of Newtownstewart, 10 miles from Omagh, the home of the Duke of Abercorn.

Specialist units were deployed to work on the crash site, as debris from the helicopter was scattered across Shanlieve Mountain, between Hilltown and Rostrevor.

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