Belfast Telegraph

Chinook helicopter crash relatives deserve truth

Editor's Viewpoint

It has been 20 years since the Chinook helicopter crash on the Mull of Kintyre in which 29 people died, and still the relatives are waiting to find out what happened. On June 2, 1994 some of the top security personnel from the RUC, MI5 and Army, as well as two pilots and two other crew, died when their helicopter crashed into a Scottish hillside in thick fog.

The memories of that dreadful event were re-kindled yesterday at the Mull of Kintyre Memorial Garden in Lisburn. Prayers were said, and the names of those who died were read out as a tribute. But still the truth is not known.

This has been a long and painful wait, and it took the families of the pilots some 16 years to clear the names of their loved ones.

An RAF report in 1995, not long after the crash, blamed the pilots, but it took another 15 years for the Defence Secretary Liam Fox to order a review of the evidence.

Following this, Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook were exonerated, much to the relief of their families and friends, who had campaigned to overturn the flawed RAF verdict.

This verdict, which was criticised both Houses of Parliament, was set aside, and Mr Fox formally apologised to the families of both air crew..

However, the relatives have not yet been told what really happened and Susan Pheonix, the widow of one of the victims, believes that the truth will never come out. This is simply not good enough.

It took a very long time for the Ministry of Defence to admit that the pilots had not been guilty of " gross negligence", which was the flawed and damning verdict of the RAF inquiry, but what has been happening since then?

In the intervening years has anyone taken the trouble to find out what took place, or was it a case of "out of sight, out of mind" once the original verdict was overturned?

If the MoD has been withholding evidence, this cannot be condoned. This is the time for every effort to be made to unearth the truth. Were the helicopters not airworthy, and are there people alive who knew, at the very least, that there were serious doubts about this?

Twenty years on, the relatives have a right to the truth. They have waited for far too long already.

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