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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 07:35 GMT
Culdrose crash questions remain
Culdrose coffin
Questions have been raised over the crews' equipment
Defence Minister Ivor Caplin has denied the government implied pilot error was to blame for a fatal helicopter crash involving an RNAS Culdrose crew.

Seven aircrew from Culdrose in Cornwall were killed last March when two Sea King surveillance helicopters collided over the sea in the Gulf just before the Gulf War began.

North Cornwall MPs Paul Tyler and Andrew George say that in a Commons answer last week, the government implied that pilot error was to blame for the collision.

But Mr Caplin, who has been visiting armed forces bases in the West Country, denied pre-empting an inquiry into the crash.

He said: "That is not the suggestion and no final answer has been reached.

"It will be right and proper that when there is a conclusion, the first people to know about it should be the families."

Mr Tyler and Mr George have raised questions about the lack of night goggles available to the crew of the Sea Kings.

Mr George, who will be meeting Mr Caplin on Friday, said: "I am seeking clear answers on equipment deficiency or whether it was human error.

"There seems to be an implication from replies we have received so far that that they are trying to place responsibility on the crew of the two helicopters.

"If they are doing that they need to say so clearly."

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