Tuesday 23 May 2017

Tributes paid to friends of prince killed in air crash

Patrice Dougan

Close friends of Prince Charles who died in a helicopter crash in the North at the weekend have been described as "highly-regarded" and "popular".

Tributes poured in yesterday from friends of the men, Charles Stisted and Ian Wooldridge, who were well-known in high-society and counted British royalty as close friends.

Investigations into how the crash in the Mourne Mountains, Co Down, occurred were ongoing yesterday. Police and air accident investigators continued to work at the scene.

Specialist units, including the PSNI's body recovery team, were deployed to work on the crash site, as debris from the helicopter remained scattered across the Mournes.

Speculation the pilot may have been flying low to prevent the rotor blades icing up was unconfirmed as the PSNI and Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) said it was too early to comment on any possible cause of the crash.

A spokeswoman for AAIB said the wreckage would be removed to its airbase facility at Farnborough, England, for a detailed examination, which could take months.

The privately-owned Agusta 109 helicopter is thought to have belonged to Mr Wooldridge. The pilot is understood to have been a former British military aviator, who served in Northern Ireland.

He was flying Mr Stisted and Mr Wooldridge back to England. The pair had been pheasant shooting in the Baronscourt Estate in Newtownstewart, near Omagh, Co Tyrone. No-one from the estate was available for comment.



Influential

A highly influential figure in polo, Mr Stisted (47) was chief executive of the elite Guards Polo Club, and counted British princes Charles, William and Harry among his friends.

A spokesman for Prince Charles said: "The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Prince Harry are all shocked and deeply saddened by this terrible tragedy.

"Their thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed at this dreadful time."

Father-of-two Mr Stisted's widow, Melissa, flew back to the couple's London home from Dubai on Sunday night after hearing the news.

Yesterday, she asked for privacy for her and the couple's children Freddie and Allegra.

Mr Wooldridge (51) lived with his wife Tandy and children Charlie and Rhett on a 230-acre estate in Surrey.

Along with his younger brother Graham, he ran the Wooldridge Group -- a £40m-a-year firm specialising in demolition and construction.

He worked closely with Dublin-based Harcourt Developments -- responsible for Park West in Dublin and the Titanic Quarter complex in Belfast.

A spokesman for the group extended "sincere condolences" to the families of both Mr Wooldridge and Mr Stisted.

"This is a tragic loss of two friends and business associates," he said.

Irish Independent

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