Britons killed in helicopter crash

Two Britons have died in a helicopter crash in the south of France, the Foreign Office said today.

Martin Rutty and Simon Lichtenstein, who had both been pilots for some time, came down in the densely wooded Tourrettes-sur-Loup valley.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We were notified of the death of two British nationals in a helicopter crash in Tourrettes-sur-Loup in southern France on December 9. Next of kin have been informed and consular assistance is being provided."



Mr Lichtenstein and Mr Rutty represented the British Helicopter Team in four World Championship events.

According to the team's website, the pair won the British National Championship in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002, and were the 2008 British Helicopter Championship club class title holders.

Mr Lichtenstein was a partner in an osteopathic clinic in Leominster, Herefordshire.



The two men were directors of helicopter company Fly-Q.

Mr Rutty, 50, from Little Hereford, and Mr Lichtenstein, 49, from Bircher, both in Herefordshire, were flying the Robinson R22 craft back to the UK after it been on display in an Italian showroom.

They had left the French town of Sospel near the Italian border at 9am on a bright and clear day and were heading towards the picturesque Provencal city of Avignon, but crashed shortly after take-off.

Eyewitness reports indicate that the aircraft suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure, which was exacerbated by strong headwinds.

Herefordshire-based Fly-Q, which the two men set up about three years ago, said in a statement: "It is with sadness that we announce that our dear friends and colleagues, Martin Rutty and Simon Lichtenstein, died yesterday...

"Martin and Simon have been long-term pilots, flying together since 1999. They were highly experienced pilots, having held four British championship titles and represented the British Helicopter Team in the past four World Championships, most recently in Belarus.

"Presently, we do not know who was piloting the helicopter.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with Martin's and Simon's families."

Both men leave behind wives and children and members of each family are due to travel to France in the coming days.

Authorities in Nice are investigating the crash.



Friends of Mr Rutty described him as a "lovely man" with "boundless energy".



A male neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: "We had this news yesterday and it is obviously getting out now. We were shocked, and his partner is distraught.



"We have three of his helicopters parked on our land so you can imagine how we are feeling here."



The man's wife, who also did not want to be named, said they had been close friends with Mr Rutty for "a few years".



She said: "He was just a lovely, lovely chap and a highly skilled pilot.



"He had amazing energy and a great zest for life. He was a positive man of boundless energy."



About 10 witnesses in the medieval village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup described seeing the aircraft suddenly lose control and hurtle into the trees below.



Nice's air transport police said the crash was of such high impact that the two men would have died instantly.



Their injuries were so severe that it has not yet been established which of the two bodies is which, Captain Jean-Pierre Labourdenne said.



Post-mortem examinations were carried out today, which found that both died in the accident, but further DNA analysis must be carried out before each body is identified, he added.



"The helicopter crashed into the trees with such force that there's no doubt the men would have died straight away," said Capt Labourdenne.



"More than 100 people helped search for them afterwards, including firefighters, police and mountain rescue and air transport officers.



"Two helicopters were involved in the search, which took almost an hour."



The investigation into the crash is expected to take several months.



Mr Rutty and Mr Lichtenstein were killed in what was the second fatal helicopter crash in the Alpes-Maritimes region this week.



Three French people died in the first incident near Sospel on Tuesday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Support / Projects Engineer

£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner & Wood Machinist

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This busy local Joinery company...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Director - Product Management

£75000 - £85000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the largest and fastes...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence