Cumbrian mine ower Mark Weir was not qualified to fly helicopter at night
Last updated at 12:11, Thursday, 11 October 2012
A tourist attraction chief killed when his helicopter crashed on a March evening was not qualified to fly at night, an accident report said today.
Cumbrian entrepreneur Mark Weir, 45, died after taking off in an Aerospatiale helicopter at just after 7pm on March 8 last year from the Honister Slate Mine attraction that he owned in the Lake District.
Mr Weir, who regularly flew from the mine to his home south of Cockermouth, did not hold a night-flying qualification, the report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said.
He had taken off in “challenging circumstances”, said the report, with reduced visibility and low cloud.
The report went on: “A number of serious airworthiness issues were identified with the helicopter during the course of the investigation. None of these could be directly linked to the cause of the accident but did raise concerns regarding the way the helicopter was operated.”
The crash was close to the mine, which draws thousands of visitors a year.
The report said Mr Weir may have been attempting to return to the mine, having left his keys in his car there.
It added there was no evidence of mechanical failure with the aircraft, adding that it was “not possible to determine the mechanism by which control was lost or disorientation occurred”.
Mr Weir, who left a partner, Jan Wilkinson, and three children, was described as “a legend of the Lake District” following his death. His family were said to be “totally devastated” by the tragedy.
Ms Wilkinson said today: “He did fly at night on occasions.
“There is nothing definitive in the report that points out why he crashed.”
Mr Weir was born a Borrowdale farmer’s son.
He became an early entrepreneur, digging graves locally at the age of 13.
He was said to have saved every penny to learn how to fly.
He left Lairthwaite Secondary Modern School in Keswick at 16 and later became a contractor, building retirement homes in Keswick and Cockermouth.
Over the years he ran the Herdwick Inn near Penrith, Cockermouth’s Slatefell Stores, Windmill Fisheries and Park Fisheries in Workington.
He also ran a helicopter company in Leeds, covering the TT races in the Isle of Man from the air and transporting celebrities, including Ian Botham and David Jason.
Mr Weir bought the abandoned slate mine in the 1990s.
He turned it into a thriving tourist attraction and operating mine, which attracted many celebrities including Sir Paul McCartney, Trinny and Susannah, the Hairy Bikers, Sir Bobby Charlton, Geri Halliwell and Kim Wilde.
First published at 12:07, Thursday, 11 October 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk
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