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Good evening. Pointless and avoidable. The words Flight
Lieutenant Sean Cunningham's parents have used to describe his death.
Today saw the end of a three`week inquest into how the Red Arrow's
pilot died when his ejection seat went off at RAF Scampton in 2011.
Today the coroner said Sean Cunningham's death was preventable,
criticising the company which made the ejection seat and the Ministry
of Defence. Caroline Bilton has this report.
It was a job he loved but it ultimately cost him his life. Flight
Lieutenant Sean Cunningham died after his ejection seat went off
during routine checks on the ground at RAF Scampton in 2011. At the
inquest into his death, it was revealed the accident could have
been prevented. His family have been coming here every day for three
weeks to get the answers they've been searching for for two years.
That wait clearly had taken its toll when it came to giving their
reaction today. Sean was blameless and his tragic
death, excuse me. His tragic death was preventable. We
still find it difficult to accept so many people could have missed what
should have been obvious to those having a duty to ensure the safety
of the seat. The inquest heard of concerns over
pressured timetables, a dilution of experience within the engineers and
severe staff shortages. Problems with the ejection seat
where the safety pin could be inserted into the handle without it
being safe were known but not communicated.
The handle had been left in an unsafe position for four days before
the accident and was seen on 19 different occasions but it went
unnoticed. Sean's parachute did not deploy
because a crucial nut and bolt had been over tightened.
Had his parachute worked, he would still be alive.
The over tightening of that nut and bolt and its potential to put life
at risk was known 20 years ago by the ejection seat manufacturers,
Martin Baker. Other foreign forces were informed but not the RAF.
In relation to the 19 missed opportunities to notice the seat
firing handle was unsafe the coroner, Stuart Fisher, said the RAF
did as an organisation have a level of appreciation some years prior to
2011 of this aspect of the seat's design. They failed to take
sufficient steps to bring that to the attention of the air or ground
crew. The RAF's failure in this regard meant that the lives of
numerous personnel were put at risk. We have made and will continue to
make every effort to make sure such a tragic accident could never happen
again. With regard to this nut and bolt and
Martin Baker's failure to notify the MoD of potential risks of over
tightening, Stuart Fisher said there was a very serious failure of
communication in my view by Martin Baker. It seems to me there is no
logic to warn and inform some but not others.
At RAF Scampton today the Red Arrows' training session was given
in Sean's honour, his family watching from the ground. Business
has resumed here, Sean's family hope lessons learned from their son's
death will mean these men and women are safer in the future.
Caroline is at RAF Scampton now. Have improvements been made since
Sean Cunningham's death? The coroner said at the start of
this inquest no stone would be left unturned and I have to say all
parties have been scrutinised in this case. Martin Baker didn't
respond in a statement today to the coroner 's criticism of the failure
to communicate and the coroner said he will writing to the company about
this issue. They have however redesigned that nut and bolt and the
firing handle and I'm told they will be fitted and operational by the end
of the year. The coroner is also going to write to the RAF and says
he is not satisfied over the safety of that seat firing handle and the
HSE are still investigating this case. There could still be a
prosecution. Almost ?15 million of government
money has been secured for a new energy park in North Lincolnshire.
The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership was one of 12 areas to
get the money. Last month ministers gave Able UK permission for a giant
business park for energy companies on the south bank of the Humber. It
will employ 4,000 people. 15 million is going to help
kick`start with 350 construction jobs, looking at the energy supply,
creating a quarter of a million square metres of commercial space
there, helping with infrastructure, roads, really getting the project
going. Health experts from East Yorkshire
say they would welcome a ban on smoking in cars where children are
present. The House of Lords tonight voted in favour of a ban despite
claims from some peers that the law would be unenforceable. Anti`smoking
campaigners say many drivers are unaware of the risks.
I think most people know about the dangers of passive smoking. A lot of
people do not tend to smoke in the house much anymore. We seem to have
got that message through. It is even more concentrated in the car because
of it being a small space. It's been announced that the Queen's
baton event will come to Hull ahead of this summer's Commonwealth Games
in Glasgow. The Olympic Torch relay was a huge success travelling
through East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in 2012 and it's hoped
the Queen's baton event will be able to recreate some of that magic.
There will be various events which are celebrating sport. We're really
trying to get people to come to those events, come together, young
people, families and celebrate the fact that sport is an important part
of our country still. Time now for the weather with Paul
Hudson. Hello, again, the dreary weather continues tomorrow, another
cloudy day with patchy outbreaks of rain to come. At the moment there is
a lot of cloud, a few spots of drizzle. There will be a few
drifting in from the North Sea. Just a chance of a little bit of sleet
perhaps over the Wolds. A risk of icy patches, mainly over the routes
across the top of the Wolds. Tomorrow, a cloudy day with some
patchy outbreaks of rain. A bit of wintriness over the tops of the
Wolds but it won't amount to anything at all. We might even get
longer outbreaks of rain developing through the course of the day.
Temperatures coming in at four or five Celsius. Friday, a dry start
and heavy rain and strong winds by the end of the day. Just a reminder
Newsnight is starting now on BBC Two with Jeremy Paxman looking into a
row about a cartoon that's angered Christians and Muslims. . From all
of us here, have a good night. Hello. The next dose of wet and
windy weather is due to arrive on Friday from the Atlantic. Today we
have had an easterly wind bringing the chill as the threat of icy
patches comes to the north where the cloud breaks. More cloud further
south. Maybe some sleet and snow in parts of East Wales as we engage the
cold air. Temperatures in the south-east are not changing much
because the rain keeps going. It will be colder further north,
though. Icy patches are possible. More wintry showers in the
north-east. Quite a few flood warnings in Tayside. Write to the
west of the