'Simply brilliant' helicopter pilot not to blame for fatal Flamborough crash

Pilot, Capt Brian Bridgman, was hailed a 'very experienced pilot' and bottom right, his passenger, John Kent.

Pilot, Capt Brian Bridgman, was hailed a 'very experienced pilot' and bottom right, his passenger, John Kent.

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A "very experienced” pilot and his passenger died when a catastrophic mechanical failure caused their helicopter to plunge to the bottom of Flamborough cliffs, an inquest has heard.

A two-day jury inquest at Hull Coroner’s Court heard pilot Capt Brian Bridgman, 58, of Kent and his passenger, Mr John Kent, 50, of Romford, both died when the Augusta Bell Jet Ranger suddenly lost power in September 2014.

A map of the flight path taken by the helicopter on the day of the tragedy.

A map of the flight path taken by the helicopter on the day of the tragedy.

An inquiry by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) found damaged bearings inside the turbine had caused the loss of power. But Alan Thorne, of the AAIB, told the court that despite the bearings being “extensively examined in the laboratory”, it could not be established what caused the damage.

The inquest heard the aircraft’s engine turbine had been overhauled by an American firm in November 2011, and was completed in September 2012.

Mr Thorne said he was satisfied with the procedures taken by the company to ensure the overhaul was carried out properly. Andrew Blackie, of the AAIB, added Capt Bridgman was a “very experienced pilot”, and decided not to depart Edinburgh as planned on September 15, due to “unsuitable” weather.

After setting off the following day, the helicopter landed at a caravan park at Boggle Hole, near Robin Hood’s Bay. They were met by a landowner who described the weather as “thick fog”, according to the AAIB’s report, and offered Mr Bridgman and Mr Kent accommodation for the night.

A picture of the damaged bearings.

A picture of the damaged bearings.

They declined and flew towards Flamborough Head, before crashing. But witnesses said the mist had cleared further down the coast at Flamborough before the accident.

The jury yesterday returned a verdict of accidental death, concluding the engine failure probably contributed to the deaths. They also concluded the manner in which Capt Bridgman flew the helicopter, both before and after the loss of power, did not contribute to his or Mr Kent’s death.

Speaking afterwards, Capt Bridgman’s son, Timothy Bridgman, said: “It was the right verdict in our eyes. Our father was simply a brilliant pilot and was thoroughly professional at all times and simply did not make mistakes.”

A policeman removes debris from the crash site in September 2014.

A policeman removes debris from the crash site in September 2014.