Helicopter pilot fined for carpark explosion
A HELICOPTER which crashed and exploded into flames in the centre of a busy seaside town was too big for the carpark where the pilot was trying to land, a court heard yesterday.
Pilot William Curry (35) admitted it was "an error of poor judgment", in deciding to land the Sikorsky S 76B in the carpark of the Neptune Hotel in Bettystown, Co Meath, on September 18, 2008.
Judge Flann Brennan said the decision was "incredibly reckless" and it was "a miracle he survived this incident and that nobody else was killed or injured". Curry, who was fined €5,000, escaped jail when his three-month prison sentence was suspended.
Judge Brennan said what he found "staggering" was that Curry had seen a Land Rover, a woman and a child in the carpark but went on to land in "a decision that seems to have been incredibly reckless". It was "reckless beyond belief and I have to take the most serious view that I possibly can".
Drogheda District Court yesterday heard from two experts with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) which brought the prosecution against Curry. He has an address in Riverside Crescent, Kilcullen, Co Kildare, but is running a helicopter pilot training business in Portugal.
Captain Paul Gingell from the IAA said debris from the burnt-out helicopter was found 70 metres away. The hotel carpark faces onto the main street and there are apartments and shops on the other side.
The aircraft had landed on Bettystown beach. When a large crowd gathered to look at it, Curry decided to land somewhere else and was given permission to land in the hotel carpark, the court heard.
One of the rotor blades struck a street light, damaging the aircraft. When it got to the ground it went on fire and exploded.
Curry pleaded guilty to flying in a reckless manner so as to endanger life or property; flying in a congested area in a manner so that a safe landing could not be made if there was a power failure; and landing where there was undue hazard to people or property. Costs of €5,000 were also awarded against him.