Tag Archives: death

2011 Public Inquiry into McRae Helicopter Crash

September 14, 2011








The 2011 public inquiry into the deaths of former rally world champion Colin McRae (and three others) in a 2007 helicopter accident has now been concluded. The Inquiry was instituted by the Lord Advocate under the discretionary provisions of the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiries (Scotland) Act 1976 and was conducted at Lanark Sheriff Court by Sheriff Nikola Stewart between January and August this year. The full determination can be downloaded here: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/FAI41.html

More details of the case can be also found in our original blog post about the 2009 Air Accidents Investigation Branch Report (AAIB): https://sportslawnews.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/mccrae-flying-licence-expired/

Essentially, while both the AAIB Report and the Inquiry determination were unable to conclusively determine the exact cause(s) of the crash, both reports conclude that McRae was ultimately at fault.



Although a ‘black box’ style flight recorder was not fitted to the helicopter (it is not compulsory to do so for private helicopters), and there were no witnesses to the crash (although multiple witnesses did view aspects of the flight), it is possible to piece together all but the last few seconds of the flight from contemporaneous video filmed by one of the passengers.

Weather conditions were generally favourable with good visibility [9], the flight was only a short (6 minute, 8 nautical miles) return trip from a friend’s farm nearby, and the G-CBHL helicopter in question had been regularly serviced.

This effectively left five probable causes for the accident:

  • Sudden onset technical malfunction (no evidence of this despite a scrupulous investigation by AAIB)
  • Accidental interference by the passenger with the dual-flying controls (cannot be ruled out)
  • A Bird strike (no evidence)
  • Pilot disorientation or misjudgment as a result of low flying at speed in difficult terrain
  • Servo transparency failure of the helicopter leading to or contributing to deviation

 The problem for McRae is that the inquiry held that any / all of the above possibilities could have been avoided or mitigated had McRae given himself a greater margin of error by flying higher or at a lower speed [29].  

Particularly damning for McRae was the finding that: The episodes of extremely low level flying and the excessive manoeuvre parameters, particularly the descent into the [Mouse] valley by Larkhall, all as captured on the video recording, are indicative of an aircraft being flown imprudently, without due regard to the principles of good airmanship, and in such a way that normal safety margins would be reduced.[26]

McRae also repeatedly breached the Rules of the Air Regulations 1996 (1) Rule 5 (2)(b) by unnecessarily flying below the minimum 500 feet clearance requirement on multiple occasions in order to create significant g-loading for the enjoyment of his passengers [24], indeed on one occasion the helicopter deviated from its intended route to manoeuvre over a farm building at only 205ft! [49] 



The previous findings against McRae’s conduct are further exacerbated by McRae’s failure to hold a valid pilot licence at the time of the accident, in breach of Art.26 of the Air Navigation Order 2005 which required all pilots to hold a:

  • pilot’s licence (McRae’s had expired on 14 February 2005 and had not been renewed)
  • validated with the type of aircraft to be flown (his AS35OBS type rating had expired 16 November 2004)
  • through an annual Licence Proficiency Check (“LPC”) (expired March 21 2007 – six months before the accident)
  • a valid relevant medical certificate (which McRae did possess, [31]).

At the inquiry, evidence showed that non-compliance with this licensing system was not an isolated occasion, as McRae had previously allowed both his type rating and medical certificate to expire on several occasions, despite his continuing to fly the helicopter during these periods of invalidity [33].

While there is no evidence to suggest that he was medically unfit, or incompetent to fly either during these times or on the day of the accident, the Sheriff Stewart found that these lapses indicated a “cavalier attitude to the safety regime imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)” [64] and could invalidate his insurance.

Further safety issues were also highlighted by an out-of-date flight manual, which failed to contain updated guidance on maintenance issues, particularly in relation to servo failures. While there is no evidence to suggest that McRae knew that this advice was out-of-date or that updates were available, the responsibility for ensuring that the manual was still current lay with McRae (as owner and pilot) [89].



The final issue in the case, which also has wider implications beyond the immediate families, was the lack of parental consent for Ben Porcelli (6yrs old) to be carried as a passenger in the helicopter. Ben was a friend of Colin’s’ son, Johnny McRae (5yrs old) and the two boys had been playing together on the farm until the helicopter ride.

The key point here is that McRae did not take any steps to ask either of the Porcelli’s for consent for Ben to be a passenger during the unplanned trip. While the inquiry ultimately held that there was insufficient evidence to determine whether Ben would have been granted or refused parental permission to ride in the helicopter, McRae’s failure to consult on such a deviation from the original plan resulted in considerable pain for the Porcelli family, but ultimately no legal culpability [134].

This begs the question, to what extent do parents have a right to be consulted on issues like this, or is parental consent implied by the generic loco parentis during the supervision, and consenting to deviations is merely a social expectation rather than a legal obligation? Although this issue was touched on previously by the Court of Appeal in Harris v. Perry [2008] EWCA Civ 907 (in relation to a failure to consult with the parents of two young boys before allowing them on a bouncy castle), it seems we are still not clear on to whether such a consultation duty exists….

See also: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-14803595  

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NASCAR Mexico Race Driver Dies

June 22, 2009


Sources: http://uk.reuters.com/article/motorSportsNews/idUKN1415039120090615?feedType=RSS&feedName=motorSportsNews; http://sports.yahoo.com/nascar/blog/from_the_marbles/post/Remembering-Carlos-Pardo-NASCAR-Mexico-driver-k?urn=nascar,171140; http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1849293/nascar_mexico_series_driver_killed.html?cat=14; http://www.totalprosports.com/blog/index.php/2009/06/carlos-pardo-wins-nascar-race-dies-in-crash/

On Sunday June 14th, an accident in the Mexican NASCAR series (Autodromo Miguel E. Abed, State of Puebla) resulted in the death of Carlos Pardo.

The 33yr old driver was leading the race after 97 laps into a 100-lap race around the circuit, he was then bumped by the car behind (Jorge Goeters) as it attempted to accelerate past, and this spun Pardo’s car into the concrete retaining walls around the pit exit at 120mph. Essentially Pardo’s car disintegrated on impact (you can see clips of this on youtube, but out of respect, they have not been reproduced on this blog). Although Pardo was quickly extracted from the wreckage and medevaced to a nearby hospital, he died about 45 minutes after the impact. NASCAR Mexico later awarded him the win posthumously, as the race was stopped following the accident.

The Mexican version of the NASCAR League is operated by entertainment giant CIE (CIEB.MX) and privately-held firm Selca, and does not compete with American drivers. Given the mechanics of the accident and the amount of disintegration of the car though, some commentators have suggested that the safety measures seen in American and International motor racing were not in place. Others commentators have suggested that the fault lay with the race drivers themselves and particularly in how the nudge occurred. This story may therefore develop further…

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Horse-rider dies on pilgrimage

March 26, 2009


Source: http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/article.php?aid=277210


Horse & Hound reports that a 63-year old woman has died after falling from a horse during a pilgrimage in India on Saturday 14th February. She was travelling to the Vaishnodevi Temple in Reasi. What is interesting about this incident is that allegedly local police have launched a case against the man who hired her the horse.

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Pancake fatality!

March 10, 2009


Source: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Pancake-Eating-Contest-Winner-Dies-After-Gorging-On-43-Banana-Pancakes/Article/200903215238171?lpos=World_News_First_Home_Article_Teaser_Region_8&lid=ARTICLE_15238171_Pancake_Eating_Contest%3A_Winner_Dies_After_Gorging_On_43_Banana_Pancakes


Not sure this exactly classes as sports law, but it is a contest…..


A Russian “athlete” (Boris Isayev, 48) has died moments after winning the Chernyakhovsk pancake contest. Witnesses described Boris as the “most active participant in the contest” and said that he managed to consume a total of 43 banana and stuffed cream desserts. However, when he went up onto the stage to collect his prize, he started foaming at the mouth, before later collapsing. While the exact cause of his death remains unclear, doctors believe he choked on a piece of one of the pancakes that had lodged in his throat. An autopsy has now been announced in order to rule out other medical causes.

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R v. Porter article

March 6, 2009


Source: ‘How risk can be seen following R v. Porter’  Health & Safety at Work H.S. at W. (2009) Vol.16 No.1 Pages 4-5

Discussion of R v. Porter (James Godfrey) (2008) EWCA Crim 1271. The case itself concerned a headteacher who was charged with breaches of health and safety legislation following the death of one of his three-year old pupils who fell while jumping down some steps in the school playground.

More details of the incident can be seen here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1020519/Headmaster-blamed-death-pupil-playground-fall-wins-appeal-conviction.html  

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Motocross death

February 17, 2009


Jeremy Lusk, 24, an American Freestyle Motocross rider died last Tuesday while attempting a backflip in the X-Knights competition in Costa Rica. Tragically, Lusk failed to a complete a full rotation of the backflip and catapulting head first into the dirt immediately on landing.

Eerily, Lusk had crashed in exactly the same manner while performing exactly the same trick during the X Games in 2007, on that occasion though he just managed to get his arms out to enable him to tuck and roll safely, scaring himself, but not suffering any lasting damage. Sadly, the landing in Costa Rica was slightly more underrotated and this was not possible.

A trust has been set up in Jeremy’s memory, and donations can be made through the Athlete Recovery Fund, www.athleterecoveryfund.com.

Source: http://sports.yahoo.com/top/news?slug=ap-obit-lusk&prov=ap&type=lgns ; http://espn.go.com/action/news/story?id=3896499&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines

Although a video of the accident is available on Youtube and a variety of other sites, it is not an easy watch and I see no reason why it should be included, or linked to from this blog. If you do have to see what happened, watch the 2007 accident and use your imagination, but please please please remember if you do have to watch a video, be respectful.

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McCrae Flying Licence expired

February 12, 2009


Former rally world champion Colin McRae’s flying licence was out of date when he crashed his helicopter in woodland near Lanark on 15 September 2007, just 150yards from the family home, after he was returning from a short trip to a friend’s farm. Colin (39), his son Johnny (5), and two family friends, Graeme Duncan (37) and Ben Porcelli (6) died in the crash.

In a statement, Mark and Karen Porcelli (the parents of Ben) said: “We are relieved that the AAIB report has finally been published. The cause of the crash is clearly outlined in the report. Most of the flight was captured on video and it is clearly evident that unnecessary risks were taken and that the accident was completely avoidable.”

An Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report into the tragedy found no cause could be positively determined. The report said disorientation, misjudgement, distraction, or other factors, may have led to this deviation. The investigation also highlighted something referred to as the “servo transparency phenomenon” which the Eurocopter company, who made the helicopter, has advised “may give a pilot who is not aware of this phenomenon an impression that the controls are jammed”.

The report made four safety recommendations including a tightening of licensing and proficiency check procedures. It also recommended that Eurocopter reviewed its information and advice about the servo transparency phenomenon. The report also said that Mr McRae’s five-year flying licence had expired in February 2005 and he was also not authorised to fly the type Eurocopter Squirrel helicopter he was operating as his “valid type rating” had lapsed in March 2007. It added: “The investigations into the pilot’s licensing history revealed several cases, between 2004 and the time of the accident, of non-compliance with existing regulations.”  The AAIB said that when Mr McRae had flown from Scotland to London in March 2006 he would have known his type rating had expired since the purpose of the flight was to meet with an examiner to renew it.

Speaking on behalf of the McRae family, Colin’s father Jimmy said: “The AAIB report, in line with the findings of our own experts, has been unable to reach any firm conclusions on the accident and it is therefore extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that we will never know the actual cause of the crash. It has been confirmed by the instructors, examiners and fellow pilots with whom he flew, that Colin’s skills as a helicopter pilot were of the highest order. This has been a very sad and distressing time for us, as it has been for the Porcelli and Duncan families, and we would now like to draw a line under this tragic affair.”

The McRae family’s solicitor, Mr Peter Watson, said: “We acknowledge that the report recognises the fact that, whilst Colin’s licence was out of date, this was not a contributory factor in the accident. Colin first qualified during the transitional period whilst the British lifetime licence system was being replaced by the European Joint Aviation Requirements five year licence and this caused considerable confusion.” He added, “We welcome the fact that the AAIB have made several safety recommendations as a consequence of this crash and that operators of this aircraft – the Eurocopter AS350B2 Squirrel – should now be informed by the manufacturer as to certain hazards and recovery actions relating to the operation of the craft.”

Source: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/UK-News/Colin-McRae-Helicopter-Crash-Rally-Champion-Driver-Lacked-Valid-Flying-Licence/Article/200902215221466?lpos=UK_News_First_UK_News_Article_Teaser_Region_1&lid=ARTICLE_15221466_Colin_McRae_Helicopter_Crash%3A_Rally_ ; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7884088.stm?lss

The Full AAIB Report can be downloaded here: McCrae AAIB Report

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Teenage girl dies in sledging accident

February 11, 2009


“A teenage girl has died after suffering serious head injuries when a makeshift sledge crashed in South Yorkshire. Francesca Anobile, 16, of Mosborough, Sheffield, was among five girls hurt in the incident at Rother Valley Country Park, near Killamarsh, on Tuesday. She was airlifted to hospital in Sheffield, where she later died.

South Yorkshire Police described the accident as “a tragic sledging incident”.

The girls had been using an improvised metal sledge, made from an upturned Land Rover roof, which went through a barbed wire fence. It then struck a separate section of fence in a field being used for cattle grazing. Jules McKay, who saw the accident, said: “There were a lot of people on the slope. Everyone was sledging as normal and having a good time. All of a sudden, at a tremendous speed, came this roof with the girls on it. It was so fast they couldn’t jump from it. “We looked on and just hoped that they were going to get up but no one did.”

Police are liaising with park rangers and the Health and Safety Executive in their investigation into the accident. The South Yorkshire force issued a warning about the dangers of playing on snow and ice. A spokesman said: “Police would like to highlight the importance of personal safety during this period of adverse weather and advise everyone to take extra care when playing out in the snow and ice.” Rotherham Council said it had taken steps to prevent people sledging on that particular slope.”

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/7868765.stm

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US Skydiver lands dead instructor

February 11, 2009


“A US soldier on his first skydive has landed safely despite the death of his instructor during the descent. Daniel Pharr steered himself and the instructor clear of a house and trees, touching down about 0.3 miles (0.5km) from the intended landing point. They had jumped from 13,500ft (4,100m) in Chester, South Carolina. Initial indications showed the instructor had suffered a heart attack after releasing the parachute, the Associated Press news agency reported. Mr Pharr, 25, said that once on the ground he had tried resuscitate the 49-year-old instructor, but to no avail.”

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7866251.stm

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Monster Truck Death

January 19, 2009



Yet another injury to spectators watching a sporting event, this time it concerned spectators at a Monster Truck Show in Washington, USA. A piece of the drive train from one of the trucks came loose and catapulted into the crowd on Saturday night killing a 6yr old boy and injuring another spectator.

“Witnesses described the boy, Sebastian Hizey, being struck in the head by a Frisbee-sized chunk of metal that tore off a truck doing doughnuts during the Monster Jam show Friday night in the Tacoma Dome. Police gathered loose parts of the drive train and the drive train loop, a special monster truck device that is supposed to hold the drive train on the vehicle, Bill Easterling, senior operations director for Feld Motor Sports of Aurora, Ill., told The Associated Press on Sunday. He said he could give no further details or description of the loose parts, including where they were found. “I’ve never seen the loop or the drive shaft parts come off like this,” said Easterling, whose company is the promoter of the show. Tacoma police Officer Mark W. Fulghum said no further information on the parts or other aspects of the investigation would be available before Monday at the earliest.

The second spectator struck by debris was taken to a hospital, but authorities haven’t disclosed his name or condition.”

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gIDYmzSgjWCSJqnGyeUzktyhrKxgD95PS9G80

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