Mother's tribute to fatal crash pilot

EXCLUSIVEBy Dave GooderhamA HEARTBROKEN mother has spoken of her frustration at having to wait a month to bury her son who was killed in a helicopter crash.

EXCLUSIVE

By Dave Gooderham

A HEARTBROKEN mother has spoken of her frustration at having to wait a month to bury her son who was killed in a helicopter crash.

Matt Radford died earlier this month when the Augusta A109 he was piloting crashed into a field near Bournemouth Airport, killing the 34-year-old Suffolk man and his Russian passenger.


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A preliminary investigation into the crash revealed Mr Radford, who is originally from Worlington, near Mildenhall, had reported he had been in difficulties just seconds before the helicopter spiralled out of control and was destroyed in a fireball.

An inquest into his death was opened yesterday, allowing Mr Radford's parents, Dennis and Gloria, who still live in Worlington, to finally arrange a funeral for their beloved youngest son.

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Speaking for the first time about her son's death, Mrs Radford said: “For me, it has been horrendous and I have not coped too well. I think it is such a shock to have happened.

“At the moment, I am so sad and upset as I can't understand the final minutes of the crash.

“A funeral won't be held until Easter and we hope to hold a memorial service in Worlington, but everything has been so confusing and I do not know when that will be.”

A former Mildenhall Upper School pupil, Mr Radford grew up in Worlington before setting up helicopter company Red Aviation, offering flight training, executive travel and leisure trips.

Mrs Radford, who is travelling to Bournemouth today with her husband to make the funeral arrangements, said: “Since Matt's death, we have had letters of great kindness, including from two parents who have lost their own sons. They have been a source of support.

“He was a great guy and he loved the sky. He was very confident in everything he did and his great love was to build up his business into something, which would have been a great success.

“Sadly, his life was cut a little bit too short. As a character, he always had a lot to do and he never wasted his life.”

The Air Accident Investigation Branch has now published a preliminary investigation into the crash that killed Mr Radford and his passenger, Stephen Curtis, from Portland, near Bournemouth, on March 3.

The report said Mr Curtis, 45, the managing director of Russian oil giant Yukos's parent company Menatep, had owned the helicopter, but had not been a licensed pilot.

Instead, Mr Radford had frequently operated the helicopter on flights between Battersea Heliport and Bournemouth.

Regarding the crash, the report said: “The pilot indicated he was in difficulty and he transmitted continuously for the final 29 seconds of the flight.

“During this period the pilot confirmed that he had a problem, but did not describe what that problem was.

“The visual controller had tried to locate the helicopter. She was not able to do so, but saw the fireball created by the impact with the ground.”

Inspectors, who said the helicopter had hit the ground at high speed, are still conducting a detailed investigation and a full report will be published in due course.

The inquest into their deaths revealed Mr Radford and Mr Curtis had both died of multiple injuries.

After formally opening the inquest, coroner's officer, Michael Humphries, said: “This will enable both bodies to be released to the families so they can make their own funeral arrangements.”

The inquest was adjourned to a date to be set once all the evidence was available.

dave.gooderham@eadt.co.uk

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