Belfast Telegraph

'His mother's heart is just breaking'... family of helicopter crash foreman left devastated by loss

By Cate McCurry

The heartbroken mother of a man killed in the helicopter crash that also claimed the life of Northern Ireland's richest man has been left devastated by the tragedy.

Declan Small was flying back to Northern Ireland with Norbrook pharmaceuticals founder Lord Ballyedmond and two air crew when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed in a field at Gillingham in Norfolk, where the Conservative peer had a country house.

The 42-year-old from Mayobridge in Co Down worked as a site foreman for the peer at Norbrook Laboratories and had been carrying out work at his Norfolk estate.

Investigators started recovering debris from the wreckage yesterday, but it could be up to a year before they know the exact cause of Thursday's crash.

The intricate process took several hours as teams worked to remove the rest of the wreckage from the site.

It also emerged on Saturday that the flight voice recorder had been recovered, which could help provide answers as to what happened.

All four bodies were removed from the crash site and will undergo post-mortem examinations before they are returned home.

News of Mr Small's death has stunned the small community of Mayobridge.

A former SDLP councillor for the area, Josephine O'Hare, said the community was "dumbfounded and numbed" by the popular man's death.

"He was a pleasant boy that grew up into a very lovely man," she told the Norfolk Eastern newspaper.

"He was such a nice fellow and from a popular family, it's just such a sad loss.

"The family, including his mother Margaret, are devastated, just devastated, and you couldn't even describe how sad they are. His mother's heart is breaking." Prayers for the victims killed in last Thursday's crash – including Carl Dickerson, chief pilot at Haughey Air Ltd, and Lee Hoyle, a co-pilot at the company – were said at All Saints in Kirby Cane, close to the where the helicopter came down in thick fog.

The Reverend Julie Oddy-Bates said: "It's a huge tragedy for the families of all four men who died and in a small community those things have a big effect.

"During our prayer time we'll be praying for them and for their families in this time of grief," she said..

"It's always important to remember the lives of anyone who's been lost, particularly in a tragic situation like this."

A Norfolk Police spokesperson confirmed that the helicopter took off from Gillingham Hall shortly before the crash.

The crash site is an area of between 150 and 200 sq metres, including ploughed fields, the spokesperson said.

BACKGROUND

Haughey Air Ltd, which was owned by Lord Ballyedmond, had lodged a writ against AgustaWestland over concerns about a AW139 helicopter it supplied.

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 the company could not comment on possible defects with Lord Ballyedmond's helicopter but said it was investigating.

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