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Eye Witnesses to Low Flying Helicopter on Kerry Beach Question Closure of Investigation

14th September 2021
The aircraft flew south over the beach’s main carpark from Ballyheigue in the direction of Barrow in County Kerry - see video below
The aircraft flew south over the beach’s main carpark from Ballyheigue in the direction of Barrow in County Kerry - see video below Credit: via Facebook

Eyewitnesses to an incident where a helicopter cruised at low level in thick fog across a popular Kerry beach have questioned why the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is not pursuing it further.

Video footage of the incident shows the helicopter an EC (Eurocopter) 155 - flying through fog along the shoreline at around ten metres (33 ft) with no lights, against aviation rules.

The incident on August 27th was reported to the IAA, which says it believes the helicopter was operated in an “appropriate manner” in “unexpected conditions”.

“Someone could have been killed, and we are just lucky that we got out of the way in time,” John Jeffers, one of the witnesses who filmed the incident, has said.

Jeffers and his wife Kathleen from Ardfert, Co Kerry were walking their two dogs along nearby Banna strand in Co Kerry at around 6.30 pm that evening.

The couple had decided to leave the beach due to the fog, when they heard a roaring sound which they described as “louder than a tractor”.

“As it got louder, and the ground seemed to vibrate, we quickly realised that it was heading in our path,” Jeffers said.

“We ran to the sand dunes, and within seconds this black helicopter appeared which was only visible within 150 metres,” Jeffers said.

The aircraft flew south over the beach’s main carpark from Ballyheigue in the direction of Barrow. A number of people in the car park nearby also witnessed the incident.

“It was so close to us that Kathleen could see the sole pilot in the cockpit,” Jeffers said.

An aviation expert who viewed the video said that it was an “extremely dangerous manoeuvre”, where the aircraft was clearly cruising and using the shoreline to navigate in fog.

“Aircraft must have navigation lights on, as in green and red on each side and a white tail light, and a flashing anti-collision light at all times,” the expert, who did not wish to be named, said.

“The video footage clearly shows no lights,” he said. The registration of the aircraft was not visible on the footage.

The IAA, which is the State regulator on aviation, said the “footage in question” was reported through the European Co-ordination centre for Accident and Incident Reporting Systems, a European aviation safety portal.

“As the competent authority, the IAA has investigated the occurrence, and engaged with the operator of the helicopter to ensure that the safety of the public was not compromised in the normal course of operations,” an IAA spokesman said.

Latest news from Banna Beach, Ardfert, County Kerry. My brother in law thought a tractor was coming along the beach while out walking the dog and it turned out to be a helicopter ?. He reckons the pilot was using the beach as a guide because of the fog that came from nowhere (forgive his language ?).

Posted by Ned Kelly on Friday, August 27, 2021

“We are satisfied that the helicopter was operated in an appropriate manner under the unexpected conditions encountered,” the spokesman said, confirming the investigation had “closed” late this week.

The Jeffers couple said they were not contacted by any investigation team, and expressed surprise that the investigation had closed so early.

The IAA did not respond when asked to comment further.

The EC 155 is a twin-engined aircraft which can carry up to 13 passengers, along with crew, and was developed for civil aviation use.

 

Published in Coastal Notes
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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