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Last Updated: Monday, 8 January 2007, 13:02 GMT
Iraq death crash 'was accident'
Royal Navy Sea King Airborne helicopter
The Sea Kings crashed over the Arabian Sea
A crash between two helicopters at the start of the Iraq war was an accident, a coroner has ruled.

Six British men and an American died in 2003 when the two Cornwall-based Royal Navy Sea King helicopters collided.

One was returning to HMS Ark Royal in the Arabian Sea and another was leaving the ship when the accident happened.

Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Sir Richard Curtis apologised for the "terrible" delay in bringing the inquest, which opened on 3 January.

He recorded a verdict of accidental death at the inquest on Monday.

The men who died were all from 849 Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose near Helston, Cornwall.

They were: Lt Philip Green, 30, from Caythorpe, Lincolnshire; Lt Anthony King, 35, from Helston, Cornwall; Lt Marc Lawrence, 26, from Westgate-on-Sea, Kent; Lt Philip West, 32, from Budock Water, Cornwall; Lt James Williams, 28, from Falmouth, Cornwall; and Lt Andrew Wilson, 36, from Exeter, Devon, and 27-year-old Lt Thomas Mullen Adams, of the US Navy, who was stationed at RNAS Culdrose.

Tony King
Lt Tony King from Helston was among those who died

Several relatives gave emotional tributes to their relatives during the inquest.

Sir Richard apologised to them, and said: "I well realise the worry and anxiety you have all been through because of the delay and let's hope it never happens again.

"I express that hope in your names, because it is quite, quite unacceptable."

The inquest into the accident on 22 March 2003 heard long and technical evidence from witnesses.

The helicopters had been undertaking surveillance work for British forces in the al-Faw peninsula.

The inquest earlier heard from an air traffic controller that the two helicopters had seen each other before a last-minute change of direction by one of the aircraft.

Alan Massey, at the time a Captain and now a Rear Admiral, earlier told the Oxford inquest: "All I know is that the aircraft flew into each other.

"We can't for the life of us fathom what it was."

Barry Wilson, father of Lt Andrew Wilson, said the inquest "could perhaps have been handled better but I might not have dealt with it quite as well had it been held nearer the time".

Asked if the conclusion of the inquest would draw a line under events for his family, he said: "It'll never end for us."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A lawyer for one victim's family gives his reaction



SEE ALSO
Iraq death crash was 'avoidable'
04 Jan 07 |  England
Seven dead in helicopter crash
22 Mar 03 |  England

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