herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Helicopter pilot is arrested trying to leave the country

crash

The pilot of a helicopter that crashed into a pub was arrested at Dublin Airport as he tried to leave the country.

Gardai detained him yesterday following Wednesday night's accident in Abbeyshrule, Co Longford.

The pilot and his passenger emerged from the Gazelle helicopter unharmed after it crashed into the side of the Rustic Inn pub while trying to land on a small grass strip beside the Royal Canal.

Aged in his 60s and with more than three decades' flying experience, the pilot was arrested as he tried to return home and was taken to Longford Garda Station.

He was questioned about endangerment in relation to the crash and later released without charge.

A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Sources said officers are investigating whether the pilot engaged in "reckless conduct" when he tried to land the helicopter.

"The issue of endangerment is being looked at in a big way," a source said.

"The pilot tried to land the helicopter in a tiny parcel of land and it crashed into the back of a pub.

"Considering all the circumstances, it is a miracle that no one was killed or seriously injured."

shock

The pilot and his passenger were treated for minor cuts and bruises at the scene, while the owners of the Rustic Inn were treated for shock.

Two investigations have been launched into the incident, one by gardai and the other by the Air Accident Investigation Unit, which operates under the Department of Transport.

Local people reported hearing a thud and a loud cracking noise as the helicopter hit the grass verge at the rear of the pub shortly after 9pm.

It is understood the pilot made two attempts to the land the helicopter alongside the pub, and CCTV footage shows it flying in sideways after a man pulled garden furniture out of the way.

A witness said the tail of the helicopter struck the building as pieces of debris landed in the canal and surrounding areas.

The passenger who was on board has been named as David Bruton and is involved in the local airfield. It is the second time he has cheated death.

In 2011, he managed to land his light aircraft after it was caught in a bird strike at an air show in Foynes, Co Limerick.

He safely landed the plane in a field.

Mr Bruton visited the scene and inspected the wreckage with friends yesterday.

"I just heard the crack and I actually thought he hit the trees across the canal," said Noeleen Kelly, who lives across the road from the pub.

"It was landing and it just spun backwards. Its tail hit the wall."

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