Death Crash Pilot Admits Negligence

15 November 2011, 15:00

The co-pilot of an RAF helicopter which crashed in North Yorkshire, killing the pilot and two others, has pleaded guilty to negligence.

Ex-Flight Lieutenant Robert Hamilton, who was left in a wheelchair after the crash, was on board the £20 million Puma when it crashed in a field at Catterick Garrison on August 8 2007.

The pilot, Flight Lieutenant David Sale, 28, from Norton, near Stockton, Teesside, died along with crewman Sergeant Phillip Burfoot, 27, from Cardiff, and 17-year-old Army recruit Private Sean Tait, from Glasgow, who was serving with the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Twelve servicemen were on board the aircraft, which was on a trooping exercise at the time, including three from the RAF and nine soldiers.

Appearing at the military court centre in Bulford, Wiltshire, Hamilton pleaded guilty to neglect in flying likely to cause loss of life or bodily injury.

He faced a further charge of wilful neglect which will lay on the file.

The charge stated that Hamilton failed to ensure the mission was executed in a manner which minimised the risks to the aircraft, its occupants or the general public over whom the aircraft was flown. It added that he also failed to advise the aircraft commander accordingly and if necessary to offer specific guidance to avoid hazardous situations.

Vice Judge Advocate General Michael Hunter ordered Hamilton to re-appear at the court on December 16 for sentencing. His sentence will be decided by the judge along with a board of five RAF officers.

Hamilton, who was serving with 33 Squadron, left the RAF after the accident and now works for a company involved in the aircraft industry. He broke his back in the incident and, after spending time in hospital, has to use a wheelchair.

The aircraft was based at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, with 33 Squadron.

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