A similar helicopter manufactured by Augusta Westland was involved in a crash that killed Lord Ballyedmond

Peer killed in crash concerned about helicopter safety

Lord Ballyedmond, who died in an Augusta Westland helicopter crash on Thursday evening, had previously lodged a writ against the aircraft manufacturer because of safety concerns.

The Conservative peer and one of the richest people in Northern Ireland lodged the case last September due to doubts about the aircraft’s in-flight mapping systems.

The writ was lodged through Ballyedmond’s company Haughey Air.

A spokesman for AgustaWestland, which supplied the doomed AW139 VIP helicopter to the peer, was not able to comment on possible defects of the aircraft and said the company is investigating the incident.

"We cannot comment now because we need to make internal checks to establish exactly what the situation is,” the spokesman said.

"We cannot yet comment on this accident because there is an investigation pending and 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 heard in-flight technology systems on board Agusta Westland helicopters should be improved after a crash which killed a friend of the Prince of Wales.

The mapping databases display the height of terrain like mountains and whether certain areas are available to fly through but the four-day inquest in Belfast highlighted flaws.

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.

The probe into the death of three people, including the Prince's friend Charles Stisted, heard how land above a certain height was not displayed and a prohibition on flying through South Armagh still showed although it was lifted several years earlier.

According to available information, the helicopter carrying Lord Ballyedmond, construction company businessman Ian Wooldridge and pilot Anthony Smith came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, at 7.30pm on Thursday.

Police said only a limited investigation of the crash site had been possible in the dark and foggy conditions last night and a more detailed forensic examination will take place today.

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