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Monday, 28 July 2014

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US Government pays tribute to Lord Ballyedmond

The US government paid tribute to the Cumbrian peer killed in a helicopter crash, saying he played a “profound” role in the international political scene.

Ballyedmond helicopter photo
The helicopter wreckage

A statement said officials were “deeply shocked” to hear of Lord Ballyedmond’s death and that his role in politics and commerce had impacted “across Ireland and beyond”.

It also emerged that the owner of Corby Castle, near Carlisle – Cumbria’s richest man, whose fortune was estimated at £860m in the last Sunday Times Rich List – had raised safety concerns with the aircraft’s manufacturers.

Lord Ballyedmond – Edward Haughey – died on Thursday night shortly after the helicopter left another of his homes, in Norfolk, when the AgustaWestland AW139 came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, killing him and three others.

Two of the others were last night named as Declan Small from Northern Ireland and Carl Dickerson from Lancashire. The fourth man has not been formally identified but next of kin are aware.

An investigation into what caused the crash, involving police and the Air Accident Investigation Branch, is underway.

It emerged that his company, Haughey Air Ltd, had lodged a writ against AgustaWestland over concerns about a helicopter supplied by them.

The case was lodged in September and is understood to have included concerns about in-flight mapping systems.

Tributes continued to flood in for the head of Norbrook Laboratory, which has a base at Kingstown, in Carlisle, including those from the US government.

“Through his stewardship and dedication to excellence, Norbrook become a global force in veterinary pharmaceutical research and manufacturing,” the statement said. “His achievements brought significant employment to Northern Ireland and in other places around the world, while his philanthropic endeavours helped improve the quality of life of countless others. Our thoughts and condolences are with all the families of those bereaved.”

A spokesman for AgustaWestland said it could not comment on possible defects with Lord Ballyedmond’s helicopter but said it was investigating.

“Obviously, we are very much regretful of what happened and will support the ongoing investigation in any possible way,” he said.

Colin Walsh, CBI chairman in Northern Ireland, said: “Eddie Haughey was one of the great characters of Northern Irish business who stood out on the world stage as a leader in his field.

“From the establishment of his veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturing business in 1968, to the major employer and global player that Norbrook Laboratories is today, Eddie stood out as one of the premier businesspeople of his generation.

“He was also a great proponent of Northern Ireland, its people and its economic potential throughout his career – including both his time as a senator in Seanad Eireann and, latterly as a peer in the House of Lords.”

Residents in Great Corby spoke of their shock after seeing him in the village in recent days.

Although Lord Ballyedmond was an often controversial figure in the area – having been involved in a number of disputes that ended up in court – his friends say his contribution to community life in the village and the surrounding area was great.

Mark Messenger is chairman of the Haaf Netters Association and a trustee of the Solway Haaf Netters and Salmon Conservation Trust.

“Lord Ballyedmond was a fantastic exponent of us,” he said. “He was very caring and passionate about haaf netting and the tradition of it.

“He made himself available and helped us set up the trust.

“He really encouraged us to enter into dialogue with authorities regarding the river and estuary. He will be sorely missed.

“When you think a couple of years ago when they were trying to regulate us more, he was a bright light and gave us the encouragement to keep going.”

Trust chairman Mark Graham was saddened to hear of the former Carlisle Airport owner’s death.

“He helped us with our fishing, he supported us and was a great friend to haaf netting,” he said.

In February 2012, an inquest heard in-flight technology systems on board AgustaWestland helicopters should be improved after a crash which killed a friend of the Prince of Wales.

The mapping databases display the height of terrain like mountains and whether certain areas are available to fly through but the four-day inquest in Belfast highlighted flaws.

Known as Edward Haughey until he was made a life peer in 2004, Lord Ballyedmond owned Gillingham Hall, a stately home near the crash site.

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