FAI into McRae helicopter crash

WHAT will be the longest Fatal Accident Inquiry in Lanark Sheriff Court's history began on Monday, January 10.

The FAI will look into the circumstances surrounding the deaths in a helicopter crash in September 2007 of former World Rally Champion Colin McRae and his three passengers.

Those who met their deaths in a fireball as the chopper attempted to land at McRae's luxury Jerviswood home on the outskirts of Lanark were the 39-year-old ace driver, his five-year-old son Johnny, Johnny's school friend from Braidwood Ben Porcelli (6) and family friend Graeme Duncan (37).

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The inquiry is attempting to answer the crucial question if the crash was down to pilot error or mechanical failure.

It has already heard emotional evidence from the family housekeeper that she heard unusual noises coming from the chopper's engines as it tried to land, only to have it pointed out to her by the Crown that she omitted to make any mention of this in her original police statement on the day of the tragedy.

It has also heard written testimony from Ben's parents, once close friends of the McRae family, that they never gave their permission for their son to be taken on the helicopter ride.

During the first days of the inquiry, witnesses have given widely differing versions of events that day.

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Some said that McRae appeared to be "showing off" in his flying while others said they thought he was bravely battling at the controls of a disabled machine and, indeed, heroically steered it away from crashing into a Lanark housing estate, preventing an even greater death toll.

The Gazette will be providing unrivalled comprehensive coverage of the proceedings as the inquiry continues.

For more information, see this week's Carluke and Lanark Gazette and don't miss next week's paper, out on Wednesday, January 19.