Helicopter Crash: N Ireland's Richest Man Dies

Northern Irish peer and businessman Lord Ballyedmond was one of the four men killed in a helicopter crash in Norfolk.

The helicopter - an AgustaWestland AW139 - crashed in a wood in Gillingham, near the suffolk town of Beccles.

It happened close to Gillingham Hall - one of the homes owned by Lord Ballyedmond, the richest man in Northern Ireland with an estimated wealth of £500m.

The three other people in the helicopter have been named as pilot and co-pilot Carl Dickerson and Lee Hoyle and the other passenger was Declan Small, who was employed by Norbrook Laboratories.

Sky's Emma Birchley, who was at the scene, said it was unclear whether fog, which had affected the area earlier on Thursday, was a factor in the crash, which happened at around 7.30pm.

"The fog is certainly going to form part of the investigation. It was very foggy last night and it remains foggy now, which has made conditions for the emergency services very tricky," she said.

An AgustaWestland spokesman said it was investigating the case, amid reports that Lord Ballyedmond was taking legal action against the firm in relation to possible safety defects with the helicopter.

Inspector Louis Provart said emergency services were alerted after people living near the crash reported hearing a loud bang.

Roland Bronk, owner of The Swan House restaurant in nearby Beccles, said it was "very foggy" in the area at the time of the crash.

Taxi driver Mark Murray, 22, from Beccles, said: "There is a large stately home nearby and you often see helicopters coming and going from there.

"When they have a game shoot the guests often all arrive in separate helicopters. We don't know if that is linked, but that's the only helicopter activity we see in this area."

The site is 45 miles from Cley Next The Sea, where four US airmen were killed in January when their Pave Hawk military helicopter came down in a marsh.

As well as being in the in pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing businesses, Lord Ballyedmond also ran an air travel business - Haughey Air - which owned a helicopter charter company.

In 1996, three pilots were killed in a crash while en route from Belfast to his estate in County Down.

Sky's Ireland Correspondent David Blevins said: "The 70-year-old owned Ballyedmond Castle in Rostrevor, County Down, Corby Castle in Cumbria, and 9, Belgrave Square in London, a six-storey townhouse purchased in 2006 for about £12m.

"In the early '90s, he sat in the Irish Senate (Dublin's upper house) before being made a life peer in the Lords in 2004. Lord Ballyedmond initially sat as an Ulster Unionist before switching to the Conservative Party."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA said he was "shocked and sad to hear that Dr Eddie Haughey and three other people have lost their lives in a helicopter crash. My sympathy is with their families."

NI Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster MLA said: "Lord Ballyedmond was one of NI's most successful entrepreneurs, known for his leadership, integrity and global vision."

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, MP for Newry and Armagh, told David Blevins he was "very, very saddened" by the fatal crash.

He said: "It's a huge tragedy for all of the families involved and it's something that, I think, will shock the workforce here (at Norbrook Laboratories) particularly the very substantial workforce that Eddie Haughey had in the Newry area.

"He certainly was a very strong-willed character. He established from nothing a very successful business."