Family wants answers over crash engine

TRAGEDY: Pilot Steven Lewis
TRAGEDY: Pilot Steven Lewis

The family of a pilot instructor who was flying a helicopter when it crashed killing him and his Chorley student is demanding answers from the aircraft’s manufacturer.

Lawyers representing Steven Lewis’ family spoke out after a four-day inquest into his death and that of Chorley businessman Philip Gray came to an end.

Coroner Dr James Adeley recorded a narrative verdict at Preston Crown Court after a jury found that the pair’s death was caused by the engine of the helicopter losing power.

It forced the Schweizer 269 to fall from the sky after the pilot made a frantic mayday call over Wyre in 2009.

Now, leading aviation lawyers from Irwin Mitchell have vowed to help the families in their battle for answers and are urging the aircraft manufacturer to undertake further investigations to identify what caused the engine to fail.

Jim Morris, an ex-RAF pilot and expert for the law firm, said: “Steven was a talented helicopter instructor pilot who did all he could to save the aircraft and his student, Philip Gray, following the sudden engine failure.

“This was a pilot training flight that was flown in good weather conditions and within all relevant rules and limits, but, tragically, when the engine lost power Steven was not in a position to glide the helicopter to a safe landing spot, despite his best efforts.”

Mr Morris said the pilot, who lived in Rainhill, Merseyside, had remained a constant professional until the end.

He added: “The loss of engine power was the cause of the crash, but, as yet, we don’t know what caused that.

“A number of underlying issues were identified by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), but they were unable to confirm which, if any, had caused the engine to fail.

“It is now imperative that immediate action is taken, a thorough investigation carried out and every possibility considered to determine once and for all what happened, and how it can be prevented going forward. Steven’s family remain committed to gaining answers over his death in the hope that lessons can be learnt from any failings which will prevent the same problems from happening ever again.”

The hearing heard how Mr Gray, who lived in Mawdesley and was the managing director of Adlington-based construction firm Naylor and Walkden, had been on a training exercise when the aircraft started to encounter difficulties over Barnaby’s Sands.

A witness described how the men were “selfless” in their actions as they managed to direct the faltering aircraft away from a nearby primary school.