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Helicopter crash was pilot's fault, says jury.

A helicopter crash which claimed the lives of four people could have been avoided if the pilot had not chosen to fly through an area of bad weather, an inquest jury decided yesterday.

Pilot Roy Stevens, aged 54, Peter Bloxsome, 59, Allan Tartaglia, 44, and his son James Tartaglia, 15, died when the aircraft crashed in the Blackdown Hills, Somerset, in January 2005.

The Taunton inquest heard that Mr Stevens, from Gother-ington, Gloucestershire, was only qualified to fly in good visibility and within sight of the ground.

The jury heard that at the time of the crash the Black-down Hills were covered in low cloud and heavy drizzle, causing poor visibility.

Mr Bloxsome, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Mr Tartaglia, from Brockworth, Gloucestershire, and James Tartaglia, from South Littleton, near Evesham, Worcestershire, had accompanied Mr Stevens on what was supposed to be a "pleasant day out".

Returning a narrative verdict, the jury said the crash could have been prevented.

The foreman said: "The deceased were in a Bell helicopter flying from Topsham, Devon, to Staverton, Gloucestershire, when they collided with trees at Priors Wood while descending in cloud.

"This accident occurred when the helicopter flew into cloud caused by a weather front.

"The incident might have been prevented if a route over the Blackdown Hills had not been chosen and/or the helicopter had landed when visibility deteriorated."

After the jury returned their verdict, West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose said: "What was to be a very pleasant day out ended in a terrible tragedy.

"I think the weather was entirely to blame. It is an element we can't fight against."

Outside the coroner's court, Chief Superintendent John Buckley of Avon and Somerset Police said the situation had been unusual and the search was hampered by poor weather.

He said said lessons had been learned and procedures changed as a result of the incident.

A spokesman for the Tartaglia family said the inquest had been "harrowing".

Pc Leo Williams, the Tartaglia family's liaison officer, said: "Nothing can bring back Allan or James. "(Allan's wife) Debbie has lost a wonderful husband and Gillian has lost a son at a time when he was becoming a young adult."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 21, 2006
Words:363
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