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1994: MI5 officers killed in helicopter crash
An RAF Chinook helicopter carrying more than 20 of Britain's top intelligence experts has crashed on the Mull of Kintyre, killing everyone on board.

An investigation is under way to find out why the aircraft - described by RAF officials as "state of the art" - came down during a routine flight from Belfast to Inverness, killing 29 people.

The deaths of 25 senior police, army and MI5 officers - some of the most experienced intelligence experts in the country - were described by the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland as a "catastrophic loss in the fight against terrorism".

Three separate inquiries will be held, and questions are expected to be asked as to why so many senior staff were flying in the same aircraft.

The Chinook crashed into a hillside near the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse in thick fog.

The explosion scorched surrounding heather and gorse as the helicopter was turned into a huge fireball.

The bodies of the dead are being taken to a temporary mortuary in Machrihanish air base. The full identification process is likely to continue until early next week.

The RAF has maintained a fleet of more than 30 Chinook helicopters since 1980. They are used for transporting troops and equipment. The aircraft which crashed had recently been refitted.

Northern Ireland Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew insisted the Chinooks had a "remarkable" safety record. None of the remaining aircraft in the fleet is being grounded.

As the investigation gets under way some RAF officers admitted the crash could have been caused by many things - pilot error, instrument failure, mechanical collapse, or even "birdstrike".

There are fears that an explanation may never be conclusively established.

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Watch/Listen
Wreckage from the Chinook crash
Wreckage from the Chinook crash

Reaction to the helicopter tragedy


In Context
In 1995 an initial RAF board of inquiry ruled that the pilots - Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook - were guilty of "gross negligence".

But since then campaigners have fought to clear the pilots' names.

A fatal accident inquiry in 1996 and a Commons defence committee report in 1998 left open the question of what caused the accident.

In September 1999 the government faced calls for a fresh inquiry when Computer Weekly released evidence claiming to cast doubt on the reliability of the helicopter's engine control software, supporting campaigners' claims that the aircraft was at fault and not the pilots.

In February 2002 a House of Lords committee opposed the RAF's verdict and concluded there were no grounds for blaming the pilots.

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