Experts sift helicopter debris as tributes are paid to victims
The close friends of Prince Charles who died in a helicopter crash in the Mourne Mountains at the weekend have been described as “highly regarded” and “popular”.
Tributes poured in yesterday from friends of the two men, Charles Stisted and Ian Wooldridge, who were well-known in high-society circles and counted royalty as close friends.
Investigations into how the crash occurred were still ongoing yesterday as police and air accident investigators continued to work at the scene.
Specialist units, including the PSNI’s body recovery team, were deployed to work on the crash site, as debris from the helicopter remained lying scattered across the Mournes.
Speculation that the pilot may have been flying at a low altitude to prevent the rotor blades icing up was unconfirmed as both the PSNI and Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it was too early to comment on any possible cause of the crash.
A spokeswoman for AAIB said that after the initial investigation was carried out at the scene the wreckage would be removed to its airbase facility at Farnborough in England for a more detailed examination, a process which could take months.
The privately owned Agusta 109 helicopter is thought to have belonged to Mr Wooldridge, a property developer involved in the Titanic Quarter development in Belfast.
Last night the pilot had yet to be named, but it is understood he was a former military flyer who had served in Northern Ireland.
He was flying Mr Stisted and Mr Wooldridge back to England after a hunting trip in Co Tyrone.
The pair had been pheasant shooting in the Baronscourt Estate in Newtownstewart, around 14 miles outside Omagh, just hours before the crash.
No-one from the estate, which has been home to the Duke of Abercorn’s family since 1612, was available for comment.
More details about the two passengers came to light yesterday as news of their tragic deaths emerged.
A highly influential figure in the world of polo, Mr Stisted (47) was chief executive of the elite Guards Polo Club, and counted Princes Charles, William and Harry among his friends.
The father-of-two was due to fly out to Dubai to stage an international polo tournament this week.
His widow Melissa flew back to the couple’s Fulham home from Dubai on Sunday night after hearing the news.
She asked for privacy yesterday for her and the couple’s two children, Freddie and Allegra.
Mr Wooldridge (51) — who lived with his wife Tandy and children Charlie and Rhett on a 230-acre estate in Surrey — ran the Wooldridge Group with his younger brother Graham.
The £40m-a-year firm specialises in demolition and construction.
Mr Wooldridge worked closely with the Dublin-based Harcourt Developments group which is responsible for the Titanic Quarter complex in Belfast.
A spokesman for the group extended “sincere condolences” to the families of both Mr Wooldridge and Mr Stisted.
“This is a tragic loss of two friends and business associates,” he said. “Ian’s experience and judgment were valued by all in Harcourt and Titanic Quarter and his contribution will be sorely missed.”