Jury rules Mortimer helicopter pilot's death was accidental

Inquest hears that Pete Barnes made "unsafe and inappropriate" decisions prior to London crash

Chris Ord


Chris Ord

Captain Pete Barnes_1

A MORTIMER helicopter pilot killed in a central London crash made the "unsafe and inappropriate" decision to divert in bad weather partly due to commercial pressure involving a significant client, a jury has found.

Peter Barnes, 50, died when his helicopter clipped a crane at The Tower, St George Wharf, Vauxhall, in January 2013.
Pedestrian Matthew Wood, 39, from Surrey, was also killed as he walked to work. Twelve other people on the ground were also injured.

The jury today delivered its conclusions that both deaths were accidental at the Southwark Coroners Court before coroner, Dr Andrew Harris.

A pilot of 24 years, Mr Barnes was working for the helicopter company RotorMotion.

He planned to fly from Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey to Elstree in Hertfordshire, but was diverted to Battersea heliport. Mr Barnes was in contact via text messages with Richard Caring, the owner of the exclusive Ivy restaurant franchise. 

During the three-week inquest, Mr Caring testified that he did not put "one iota" of pressure on the pilot to pick him up so he could go to a shoot with the Queen's cousin. 

But jurors today concluded Mr Barnes was likely to have felt under pressure stating that "a 7.55am text message from a client prompted his decision to divert". 

The jury said Mr Barnes' decision to take off from Redhill was inappropriate and that the decision to divert to Battersea was "neither safe nor appropriate" because it placed him in "excessively challenging weather conditions". 

Clouds and poor visibility were factors in the collision with the crane and the jurors also agreed with the evidence of Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) inspector Geraint Herbert, who believed Mr Barnes suffered a "loss of situational awareness". 

Dr Harris said nothing would reverse the "tragic, sudden and completely unexpected" loss of their loved ones, but he hoped the inquest's consideration of how to prevent future deaths would mean some good could come of the incident. 

For the full story see next week's Newbury weekly News

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