London: An official report released on Wednesday on a helicopter crash that killed 29 senior British military, intelligence and law enforcement officials cleared the pilots who were initially blamed for the accident.
The Chinook helicopter came down in thick fog as it carried officials from Northern Ireland to a security conference in Scotland in June 1994.
The initial Royal Air Force report accused the pilots of "gross negligence”, but relatives of the deceased and some lawmakers have long insisted equipment failure was to blame.
A report from a panel led by a retired Scottish judge concluded that the pilots should not have been blamed and said the exact cause of the crash would likely never be known.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox apologised to the families of the two pilots, Flight Lt Jonathan Tapper and Flight Lt Richard Cook. They died with two other crew members and 25 passengers when the helicopter crashed onto the Mull of Kintyre peninsula on the west coast of Scotland.
Fox said there was no evidence to support claims of technical shortcomings on the Chinook, which "has had an excellent safety record since the disaster on the Mull”.
Families of the dead pilots said the report would give them closure at last.
"The reputations of these two young officers have been restored and we feel a dreadful wrong has been righted," said Cook's brother, Chris Cook.
First Published: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 11:17