Ballyedmond helicopter crash site 'scene of devastation', says doctor on anniversary
A doctor who attended the helicopter crash that claimed the life of multi-millionaire businessman Lord Ballyedmond and three others five years ago has recalled arriving at "a scene of devastation".
The Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter came down in a field in heavy fog shortly after take-off from his estate in Gillingham, Kent, on March 13, 2014.
Lord Ballyedmond (70), also known as Dr Edward Haughey, was once Northern Ireland's richest man, with an estimated wealth of more than £800m.
Best known as chairman and founder of Norbrook Laboratories, the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world, the father-of-three had a range of other business interests.
Declan Small (42) of Mayobridge, Co Down and Dr Haughey's site foreman at his Norbrook plant in Newry, also died in the crash, alongside helicopter pilot Captain Carl Dickerson (36) of Thornton, Lancashire, and co-pilot Captain Lee Hoyle (45) from Macclesfield, Cheshire. A jury inquest later ruled that their deaths were accidental.
Lord Ballyedmond had flown to Gillingham Hall from his home at Ballyedmond Castle in Co Down on the afternoon of the crash to oversee the hanging of some pictures. The flight had initially been due to depart by 6.30pm and the pilots had warned about the worsening weather conditions. By the time the helicopter left at 7.22pm, a dense fog had descended.
At the time Dr Timothy Morton (59) was volunteering with Norfolk Accident Rescue Service. He had just finished evening surgery at Beccles Medical Centre and was eating supper at home when he was called to the aircraft crash, less than a mile away.
Recalling the harrowing moment he navigated his way through the thick fog to the site, he described the atmosphere as "very eerie".
"I had a rough idea of the area, but the visibility to drive was quite tricky and you could barely see 10 metres," Dr Morton said on the fifth anniversary of the crash yesterday.
"When we came upon the crash, it was hard to make out what had happened at that stage because of the conditions, but it was a scene of devastation.
"It was left to myself and my colleague, critical care paramedic Rod Wells, to confirm that life was extinct, which was evident very quickly. It was a very tragic and catastrophic accident.
"The weather conditions that night were absolutely appalling and what struck me was how quickly they had deteriorated.
"My colleagues from the East Anglican Air Ambulance would normally have responded, but they were fog-bound at Cambridge that night and unable to attend due to the conditions.
"I hadn't realised how time flies. It's hard to believe it was five years ago. I certainly don't dwell on it, even though I occasionally drive past the crash site.
"My lasting memory is how quickly a scene can change as 12 hours later we had a beautiful blue-sky day."