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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 17:24 GMT
Oil boss dies in helicopter crash
An investigator at the crash site just east of Bournemouth airport
The Air Accident Investigation branch is carrying out inquiries
The managing director of a Russian oil company has been named as one of two people killed in a helicopter crash.

Stephen Curtis, 45, died when the helicopter he was travelling in crashed into a field a mile from Bournemouth Airport on Wednesday night.

Max Radford, 34, a chief pilot working for charter aircraft operator Red Aviation, also died in the accident.

The Air Accident Investigation branch is carrying out inquiries to find out why the Augusta 109 helicopter crashed.

Stephen was a great friend and valued colleague
Group Menatep statement

Police are currently searching for more casualties in the area around the crash site, near Pitt House Lane.

A statement from Group Menatep, the majority shareholder in oil company Yukos, the second largest in Russia, paid tribute to Mr Curtis, who was a married father of one.

"We are deeply saddened by the news of Stephen Curtis' sudden and tragic death.

"Stephen was a great friend and valued colleague. He will be greatly missed.

"Our thoughts are currently with Stephen's family."

'Experienced pilot'

A statement from Red Aviation said: "Personnel of Red Aviation are devastated by the tragic loss of their colleague in yesterday's accident.

"Max Radford was an experienced, dedicated commercial pilot and instructor.

"He will be greatly missed by his friends and the industry as a whole.

"Our sympathy goes out to the families and friends of the two men."

The helicopter, on lease to Red Aviation, had left Battersea heliport in London on the way back from a routine trip when it crashed at 1940 GMT.

No buildings were damaged but debris was scattered over a large area.

Jack Malt, who lives near the crash site, said: "I heard a kind of thump noise and the dog started barking, so I came outside and heard another couple of bangs."

Steve Shuck, of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters found the aircraft engulfed in flames.

He said: "They were faced with a fireball, with the fuel on board a helicopter like that - the whole thing was well alight and the helicopter had disintegrated."



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