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Wednesday, February 25, 1998 Published at 20:01 GMT



UK

Accident verdicts on Harding crash
image: [ Matthew Harding was killed when a helicopter in which he was travelling crashed into fields ]
Matthew Harding was killed when a helicopter in which he was travelling crashed into fields

An inquest jury has returned verdicts of accidental death on Chelsea Football Club Vice Chairman Matthew Harding and his four travelling companions.

They perished when the Twin Squirrel helicopter carrying them from the Coca Cola Cup tie at Bolton Wanderers in October 1996 plunged into farmland and burst into flames.


The BBC's Mark Jones reports on the inquest verdict (0'42")
It took the jurors just over a quarter of an hour to reach their verdicts after the day-and-a-half hearing.

The inquest heard how the weather on the night of the crash had been clear but soon after take-off the pilot had asked air traffic control if he could abort the flight and turn back to Manchester airport.


[ image: The pilot tried
The pilot tried "more than was achieveable"
The jury was told that pilot Michael Goss, an ex-serviceman, had probably become disorientated and confused at the controls.

The chief accident investigator said it was probable that Mr Goss had been trying "more than was achievable" in flying the aircraft alone at night with no auto-pilot while trying to read a map and talk to air traffic control.

The Cheshire Coroner, John Hibbert, was told that Mr Harding, 42; pilot Michael Goss, 38; businessmen Raymond Deane, 43; Tony Burridge, 39; and magazine journalist John Bauldie, 47; all died instantly from multiple injuries when the helicopter plunged to earth near Middlewich in Cheshire.


[ image: Flowers lined Chelsea's gates after the crash]
Flowers lined Chelsea's gates after the crash
The coroner said there was ample evidence to return accidental death verdicts which would be the only proper verdicts in the circumstances.

"Whatever verdict you return it must not indicate where civil or criminal liability might lie," he told the jurors before they retired.

Matthew Harding's estranged wife Ruth gave brief formal identification evidence to the hearing on Tuesday, but was not at Knutsford Crown Court for the verdicts.

The self-made millionaire's girlfriend Vicky Jaramillo left the hearing before the jury returned the verdicts.

Coroner traumatised

Outside the court, the coroner spoke of the trauma of attending the crash scene.

"This was a real tragedy," Mr Hibbert said. "One life is already tragic but five is especially sad, not just for the families but also for the friends of the dead.


[ image: The coroner said he was traumatised by the scene]
The coroner said he was traumatised by the scene
"Obviously to see the scene there, bodies still in position is a very traumatic sight even for those used to seeing bodies as indeed a coroner is," he added.

Mr David Cooper, who represented the Harding estate, said Mr Harding's wife had been too upset to attend the second day of the hearing.

He said the inquest left many unanswered questions for the family.

"They do not know what made the pilot not control the helicopter," he said. "I don't suppose we will ever know."

However, Mr Cooper said the family had expected the accidental death verdict and said claims would be made against a number of parties.

But he would not elaborate further on the nature of such claims.

"Mr Harding was a 42-year-old man when he died and his earnings were £7m a year. Any claims will therefore be for a large sum," he said.






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Relevant Stories

24 Feb 98†|†UK
Inquest into Harding death begins

27 Nov 97†|†UK
Pilot 'unable to control' Harding helicopter

27 Nov 97†|†UK
New flying rules since Harding tragedy

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