Alcohol linked to British Army chopper crash

The pilot of a British Army helicopter which crashed on the Derry shore three years ago had probably been drinking, it has been revealed.

The unnamed pilot, who has been court martialled and banned from flying, admitted drinking wine hours before the crash on July 19 2002.

He had taken off in the early hours of the morning without permission.

The pilot suffered only minor injuries after his Gazelle helicopter came down in mudflats near Ballykelly, County Derry.

A passenger suffered a broken leg and back injuries. The men were thrown clear of the helicopter while still strapped to their seats.

Both soldiers, who were in civilian clothing, swam ashore before raising the alarm.

The army investigation found the primary cause of the accident to be “human factors”, with the pilot suffering “spatial disorientation”.

“This was due to lack of attention to the external visual cues and the flight instruments, whilst distracted, fatigued and probably under the influence of alcohol,” the reports stated.

“The pilot concerned was permanently grounded and banned from flying.”

Sinn Féin assembly member Mitchel McLaughlin said it was ‘only luck’ that the helicopter had not crashed in a residential area.

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