Concern over future of crashed RAF Chinook helicopter records

By Cameron Brooks

A Church of Scotland minister has expressed concern that official records relating to the 1994 RAF Chinook helicopter crash on the Mull of Kintyre could be destroyed.

The Rev Roddy McNidder said he feared the move would mean that the true cause of the crash nearly 25 years ago may never been known.

The retired minister, who led Southend Church on the Mull of Kintyre from 1987-1997, spoke out after the Ministry of Defence confirmed that records closed in 1995 and 1996 “will be reviewed for release or alternative disposal this year”.

rev roddiemcnidderMr McNidder, pictured right, said the timing was “insensitive” and “intrusive” to the families of the 29 people who died and called for all records relating to the tragedy to be made public.

The helicopter was on its way from RAF Aldergrove near Belfast to Inverness on June 2, 1994 when it crashed in a ball of flames on the Mull of Kintyre.

The pilots, Flt Lts Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook, were accused of gross negligence over the crash.

In 2003, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland called on the Ministry of Defence to order a fresh review into the accident. Jonathan Tapper’s father, Michael, watched the debate from the public gallery.

A fresh review was ordered and in 2011 found that the pilots should not have been blamed and the earlier ruling was set aside.

But David Hill, a retired MOD helicopter engineer and Dr Susan Phoenix, whose husband RUC Det Supt Ian Phoenix was killed in the crash, told the Belfast Newsletter that the review which restored the pilots’ reputations had no remit to inquire into the actual cause of the crash.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Mr McNidder said: “The news that the MoD may consider the destruction of the records pertaining to the Crash of RAF Chinook ZD576 on the Mull of Kintyre as the 25th anniversary of that heart-breaking trauma approaches, is of grave concern.

“These records are, and will continue to be, of great significance and ought to be retained as an important legacy resource and released to the public.

“They have meaning and great personal value to many families and will continue to do so for generations of those affected.

“The timing of this review is very insensitive, and indeed intrusive to families and colleagues of those who died, and one must ask why the need to destroy such a valuable historical record is even being considered?”

Mr McNidder, of Alloway, near Ayr, a retired NHS chaplain, said:” “Just because one can do a thing, does not mean one ought to.  To quote the Irish philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke, ‘it is not what a lawyer tells me I may do but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do’”.

Mr McNidder led a memorial service for the victims of the crash in September, 1994.

A Ministry oof Defence spokesperson said: “MOD records that were closed in 1995 and 1996 will be reviewed for release or alternative disposal this year. These reviews have not been completed, and a decision will be made in due course.”

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