The families of three Moray airmen who died in an RAF jet crash have called for a public inquiry into the tragedy after their demands for a court hearing were rejected.
Representatives of the bereaved relatives spoke out amid frustration at the Crown Office’s decision yesterday not to hold a fatal accident inquiry into the 2012 Tornado collision.
Moray MP Angus Robertson said he was “totally mystified” by the ruling, claiming the Ministry of Defence had “failed in its duty of care” towards the RAF Lossiemouth crew.
Squadron Leader Sam Bailey, Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole and Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders were killed when the two Tornado GR4s fighter jets they were flying collided off the Caithness coast.
A fourth member of the crew was injured.
A damning report by the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) found last year that 17 factors contributed to their deaths, including the failure to fit a collision warning system, and the lack of an effective care plan for Sqn Ldr Bailey, who had sought help after developing a fear of flying.
The Ministry of Defence has accepted liability for the tragedy and reached settlements with two of the three families.
The Crown Office ruled yesterday that the MAA probe was more wide ranging than an FAI would have been.
But David Bell, the lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who is representing the families, said lessons still needed to be learned as he called on the UK Government to take the unusual step of ordering a public inquiry.
“We are disappointed about the decision not to hold a fatal accident inquiry and that whilst we accept that the service inquiry report does identify the immediate causes of the accident, there are many questions about how and why many of those causes arose, which need to be answered,” he said.
“If a fatal accident inquiry is not to be held, those broader questions should be addressed by a public inquiry.
“The families of victims of the crash need answers as to how this crash occurred and want reassurances that any wider issues will be identified and resolved to prevent the risk of other similar accidents in future – without the appropriate inquiry, it is difficult to see how lessons will be learned.”
Fiona Bailey – the wife of Sqn Ldr Sam Bailey – worked at the former RAF Kinloss at the time of the 2012 disaster and called last year for an FAI after revealing her family had been left “devastated” by the death of her husband.
Mr Robertson has also repeatedly called for an FAI into the tragedy, while raising concerns about ongoing delays to the collision warning system.
The SNP’s Westminster leader said last night: “This is an extremely disappointing decision. I am totally mystified why there won’t be a fatal accident inquiry.
“There are critical outstanding questions about Tornado safety and the delayed collision warning system.
“The MoD failed in its duty of care towards the RAF personnel involved in the Tornado collision.
“I believe they, their families and colleagues deserved better and a proper inquiry.”
David Green, head of the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit, explained the decision not to hold an FAI.
“Crown Counsel carefully weighed up the full circumstances of the case, and concluded that a fatal accident inquiry could not better and would only repeat the highly detailed investigation into the tragedy already conducted by the Military Aviation Authority.
“The service inquiry report which they produced also contains conclusions and recommendations which are more wide ranging than could be expected to be achieved in a fatal accident inquiry.
“The RAF and MoD have accepted the recommendations of the Service Inquiry Report, and the nearest relatives of those who tragically died in this accident have been advised of Crown Counsel’s decision.”
An RAF spokesman said: “Our thoughts remain with the families of Squadron Leader Sam Bailey, Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole and Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders.
“The Ministry of Defence has provided all information requested by the Scottish legal authorities in their consideration of this matter and has assisted fully during the completion of a comprehensive service inquiry, the thoroughness of which was one of the main factors in the decision not to hold a fatal accident inquiry.
“The service inquiry made 42 recommendations, all of which have been implemented including the on-going introduction of a collision avoidance system to Tornado GR4 aircraft which will be another tool for aircrew to use.
“This is the first time such a system has been fitted to an existing combat fast jet anywhere in the world that we know of.”