Lord Ballyedmond: NI peer among Norfolk helicopter crash dead

Lord Ballyedmond in 2010 Image copyright Northern Ireland Executive
Image caption Lord Ballyedmond was one of Northern Ireland's richest men

Northern Ireland peer and industrialist Lord Ballyedmond was one of four people killed in a helicopter crash.

The helicopter came down in a field near his stately home in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, on Thursday.

Lord Ballyedmond, who was one of Northern Ireland's richest men, and the three other people on board, all confirmed as male, died at the scene.

One of the victims was Declan Small, 42, from Mayobridge, County Down.

It is not known what caused the crash but witnesses reported fog in the area at the time and said the helicopter came down very soon after taking off at about 19:30 GMT.

A spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said it would be sending a team to the area.

Limited investigations

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has been contacted by Norfolk Police for assistance.

The helicopter has been confirmed as an Agusta Westland AW139.

Supt Dave Marshall, of Norfolk police, said: "Police, along with our emergency service colleagues and the Air Accident Investigation Branch are now working towards the dignified removal of the four bodies, which is expected to take place this afternoon, full examination of the scene and opening roads as quickly as possible.

"The cordon is in place to keep areas sterile and allow the investigation to be carried out sensitively and safely."

Image copyright Anthony Dunn
Image caption The helicopter that is believed to have crashed in Norfolk

Tributes have been paid to Dr Edward Haughey, who became Lord Ballyedmond of Mourne when he was created a life peer in 2004.

He was a leading industrialist and owned veterinary pharmaceutical firm Norbrook Laboratories in Newry, County Down, and had a range of other business interests.

Image caption Several roads close to the helicopter crash scene have been closed off by police

As well as being a member of the House of Lords, he was a former member of the Irish senate.

Tributes paid

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Reg Empey, who has known the Haughey family for 25 years, said: "Lord Ballyedmond was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and indeed these islands.

"He brought high-quality employment opportunities to this country during its darkest days.

"This tragic accident has cut short the life of a man who had still much to give. The family circle will be numbed by the tragedy."

Ulster Unionist Stormont assembly member Danny Kennedy said he was stunned to hear of his death.

Image copyright Mike Page
Image caption Gillingham Hall is in a small village in south Norfolk

"He will be sadly missed throughout the business community in Northern Ireland and wider afield. I offer my deepest sympathies to Lady Mary and the children."

South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said he was unique.

"He was a major employer in the County Down area and invested a lot of money.

"He got up and at it and he possessed those attributes required to make you a successful businessman, but he also was a major employer and a lot of families had connections with him through that."

In December 1996 a helicopter owned by Lord Ballyedmond crashed on Carlingford Mountain in the Republic of Ireland killing three people.

It was en route to his Rostrevor home.

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Media captionLord Ballyedmond was one of Northern Ireland's richest men

Gillingham is a small village in the south of Norfolk with a population of about 650.

Norfolk Police said the crash site would remained cordoned off during the day while examinations of the scene were carried out.

The site of the crash is about 45 miles from where four crew members died when a US military helicopter crashed on a training mission in a nature reserve in Cley next the Sea, Norfolk, in January.

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