The overruling of aircraft safety warnings by the Ministry of Defence resulted in the deaths of six British servicemen in a helicopter crash, a senior official has revealed.
He also alleged that documents were withheld from the board of inquiry and the inquest to cover up the way in which airworthiness regulations were ignored. The former civil servant said he had refused to declare the Royal Navy’s Sea King Mk7 helicopters airworthy, but was overruled by superiors trying to save money.
He said that two years before two Sea Kings collided off Iraq in 2003, killing six Royal Navy officers and one American serviceman, he issued warnings about the risks. Anti-collision lights on Sea Kings had been replaced with strobe lights that “blinded the pilots at low level, over water or in mist — so they switched them off”. Consequently, the pilots lost sight of each other before the fatal collision, and became disorientated. A board of inquiry blamed the crash on several factors and ordered removal of the strobe lights.
Last night the mother of Marc Lawrence, 26, one of the Royal Navy officers killed, accused the MoD of a “whitewash”. Ann Lawrence said: “The inquest was a case of people forgetting where they were and losing key papers. It was a joke.”
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