Death Crash RAF Base Criticised

Coroner Report On Helicopter Crash


The crash of an RAF helicopter that killed three servicemen has prompted an inquest coroner to criticise the running of RAF Benson, where the helicopter was stationed.

Geoff Fell said the management of the base "left much to be desired", and that because paperwork was either missing or incomplete it was unclear if the pilot was properly qualified.

Flight Lieutenant David Sale, 28, Sergeant Phillip Burfoot, 27 and 17-year-old Private Sean Tait died in the crash near Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, in 2007.

Mr Fell said the crew of the £20 million Puma helicopter were "inexperienced" and were undertaking their first trip without an instructor.

He said that most of the flying on the day "seems to have taken place at less than 100ft" and that tactical manoeuvres were "excessive in number and irregularity".

The crew was "oblivious" at times, he said, and there was a deterioration in discipline.

During the inquest he played extracts from the Puma's cockpit voice recording that included the crew laughing, joking and quoting the film Top Gun just moments before the crash.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Zoe Sutton an Associate at Irwin Mitchell who is acting for one of the surviving passengers on board the air craft commented: "What ought to have been a memorable experience for these young soldiers on board the PUMA, quickly turned to tragedy.

“We hope that lessons have been learnt so that a situation such as this, which has left my client physically and emotionally scarred, need never occur again.

“Hopefully the Coroner's verdict and the criticisms levied at the RAF will go dome way in helping my client to come to terms with the injuries which he has suffered and which have put an end to a promising military career.”

If you have been injured while serving in the air force, find out about a possible claim against the RAF.