Published: 12:00, 26 August 2014 |
Updated: 16:37, 27 August 2014
A military helicopter that crashed during take-off killing a young officer from Maidstone was not suitable for the conditions, an inquest has heard.
The hearing into the death of Capt Ben Babington-Browne, a former Maidstone Grammar School pupil who died in July 2009 in Afghanistan, heard the Griffon craft was overloaded to take off safely and due to the altitude and temperature in the afternoon, was not the right vehicle.
Capt Babington-Browne was being taken back to his base in the Canadian craft.
As it took off, the court, held at County Hall, Maidstone today, heard the handling pilot hesitated and, as a dustball whipped up, he had lost his “visual reference”.
Expert witness, Lt Commander Will Robley from the UK Defence Helicopter Flying School, said evasive action had been needed, but none was taken.
The craft then careered towards the perimeter fence and crashed within 10 seconds, just feet from the ground.
Capt Babington-Browne had been sitting on the floor, strapped in, but with his legs out of the craft, and was trapped when the helicopter hit the ground.
It burst into flames. He suffered multiple injuries and inhaled fire fumes. Two Canadians were also killed, while three others onboard survived.
He said: ”At that time, that weight, on that day, that aircraft didn’t have the performance to conduct that mission safely.”
He also said he felt they had not been trained enough and were on a “voyage of discovery”.
Capt Babington-Browne’s mother, Nina, said she and her other son, Daniel, had travelled to the base and spoken to a survivor.
He told her that her son had had concerns about the helicopter taking off in a dustball, and wanted it to land outside the base, but could not let the crew know.
She had fought for years to get answers for her son. She said: “We wanted the best for my son. We didn’t want it to happen to anyone else. We lost a precious son and brother; he was a joy. It had been our main concern that he would be killed by enemy fire or an IED but this was surreal then and it is now.”
Assistant coroner for Mid Kent and Medway Andrew Campbell-Tiech QC said he would be recording a finding of accidental death on Thursday.
He is also likely to address his concerns about the lack of disclosure and co-operation from the Canadian Army into the inquest. Requests over a number of years, and assurances from both Buckingham Palace and the Canadian High Commissioner, no evidence had been provided. Twenty eight witness statements which the Canadians had from their inquiry have never been forthcoming to the UK authorities.
Capt Babington-Browne was serving with 22 Engineer Regiment. His funeral was held at All Saints’ Church, Maidstone, with full military honours.
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