Future Of Tyrone’s Coastguard Helicopter In Jeopardy As Pilot Held To Account
The future of Tyrone’s coastguard service lies in doubt amidst claims that the helicopter pilot employed by the Coastguard was witnessed on several occasions using the aircraft for his own personal use. Kieran Doherty of Trillick was allegedly seen landing in the Tesco car park in Dungannon to use the cash dispenser two weeks ago on Saturday. He defended his actions, saying:
“I thought I saw someone close to the edge of the lake in Dungannon Park. You can’t be too careful you know. I went in to make an emergency landing but she over-shot and accidentally landed in Tesco’s car park. Just next to the cash point. And anyway, I could hardly have landed in Dungannon Square, could I? It’s heaving on a Saturday afternoon”.
Doherty has also had to defend accusations that he hovered at less than 50 feet above the pitch for the entire second half at last Sunday’s match at St Colmcille’s football ground between Carrickmore and Eglish, allegedly to get a pilot’s eye view of the game. “Not true” said a heated Doherty.
“I just happened to be flying by and saw a whole lock of people waving and shouting. We’re trained in the Coastguard that that sort of thing can often be a sign of people drowning, so I went in for a closer look. By the time I realised all was in order, Mark Donnelly had scored two brilliant goals and was going for the hat trick. Deadly. He’d probably have got it if the ball hadn’t flown into the rotors. Some boy that Donnelly”.
The claims come at a time when many people are questioning the benefit of the Coastguard service, which is based at Omagh. The helicopter, an Agusta Westland AW139 model, currently costs the public purse more than £1m each year to operate. “It’s ridiculous” said local MP Sean Cribben, an opponent of the service. “It’s utter madness to have a coastguard helicopter for Tyrone when any idiot can see it’s a bonkers idea. A lifeboat would be much more cost effective”.
Criticism has also come from certain parts of the county who have been distressed by the presence of the helicopter. Stewartstown residents in particular have been reported as being terrified of the “big noisy sky bird”, and have run into their homes screaming.
Posted on April 22, 2013, in Carrickmore, Dungannon, Eglish, Stewartstown and tagged agusta westland, Carrickmore, coastguard, Dungannon, Eglish, helicopter, lifeboat, mark donnelly, MP. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.