Tragic Haughey's firm had lodged court writ against helicopter maker
THE NORTH'S richest man, Lord Ballyedmond, died alongside a joiner in his employment and two pilots in a helicopter crash in England.
It emerged yesterday that the millionaire had recently raised safety concerns with the aircraft's manufacturers.
His AgustaWestland AW139 came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, at 7.30pm on Thursday.
The 70-year-old had been travelling with Declan Small (42), a joiner from Maybridge, Co Down, and pilots Carl Dickerson and Lee Hoyle. All four died in the crash.
It is understood the peer frequently flew tradesmen whose work impressed him from the North over to his property in Norfolk to perform work.
Yesterday it emerged that his company, Haughey Air Ltd, had lodged a writ against Agusta-Westland over concerns about a helicopter supplied by them.
The case was lodged in September 2013 and is understood to have included concerns about in-flight mapping systems.
It has not been confirmed whether that helicopter was the one that crashed.
A spokesman for AgustaWestland said it could not comment on possible defects with Lord Ballyedmond's helicopter but said it was investigating.
Speaking from the company's office in Italy, he said: "We cannot comment now because we need to make internal checks to establish exactly what the situation is.
"There could be many causes, be them technical or due to human error. Obviously we are very much regretful of what happened and will support the ongoing investigation in any possible way."
In February 2012 an inquest in Belfast heard in-flight technology systems on AgustaWestland helicopters should be improved after a crash that killed a friend of Prince Charles.
The aircraft flew into the side of a cloud-shrouded mountain in the Mourne range, Co Down, in October 2010 as it carried a shooting party back to England.
Norfolk police yesterday cordoned off a large area while they tried to piece together what had happened.
Tributes have been paid to Lord Ballyedmond by, amongst others, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers.
In a statement last night, Norbrook Laboratories said: "It is with sincere sadness and deep regret that the company confirms our founding chairman and CEO, Lord Ballyedmond, was one of four people who tragically lost their lives in an aviation accident.
"Norbrook also mourns the loss of their friends and colleagues Declan Small (site foreman), Captain Carl Dickerson and Captain Lee Hoyle.
"Our thoughts are with the immediate families and friends of the deceased who have requested privacy at this difficult time."
Newry and Mourne MP Conor Murphy said he was shocked by the death of the peer.
While Mr Murphy said their political viewpoints may have been poles apart, he found Lord Ballyedmond to be warm and loyal to where he had come from.
"Certainly in this area where people knew him and saw the industry he built up, there is a lot of sadness," he said.