Military helicopters have been banned for five years from flying below 2,000ft
over the Lincolnshire village where horse rider Heather Bell died in June last year, writes Nigel Burnham.
Mrs Bell's family received the news in a letter from the Ministry of Defence's
director of air staff Air Commodore Richard Garwood, who told them: "As a mark of respect for Heather, I have instructed all
low-flying military helicopters to continue to avoid Middle Rasen."
The exclusion zone extends for a radius of 1.5 miles, and centres on the village
church, up to a height of 2,000ft. The MoD's decision will be reviewed in five years' time.
Mrs Bell, 38, died after being thrown from her horse. An inquest jury decided
that her horse was "spooked" by a low-flying RAF Chinook helicopter.
After the inquest, Louth and Spilsby coroner Stuart Fisher wrote to the MoD,
demanding changes to the policies on low-flying aircraft. He asked that areas available for low-flying training be reduced,
and that the public be informed when and where low-flying is scheduled to take place.
Mr Fisher also suggested that the MoD explore the possibility of using tracker
devices that could alert pilots to nearby riders.
Air Commodore Garwood confirmed in his letter that Mr Fisher's recommendations
were being examined "very carefully".
family's solicitor, Tean Butcher, said the family was pleased with the MoD's response but believed that the low-flying ban
should not be restricted to Middle Rasen "as this is an issue that affects the whole of Britain".
Susie Fleetwood, of Abbey Livery Riding Stables, Langworth, near Middle Rasen,
says: "This is good, but it is too little too late. A person had to die before anything was done. "Action needs to betaken
nationally. The MoD needs to study maps of bridlepaths and connecting roads to work out where horses are likely to be, then
avoid flying aircraft low in those areas."
THE MoD was due to hold a press briefing this week (23 December) in the wake
of the coroner's report after the Heather Bell inquest.
Yorkshire low-flying action group formed
A North Yorkshire
rider has formed an action group in a bid to stop low-flying helicopters and jets spooking horses in the county. Linda Butler-Blades
is appealing for any riders whose horses have been disturbed by aircraft to join the group to take on the MoD.
Linda, of Grewelthorpe, near Ripon, decided to act after her 17-month-old filly
Goldi ran through a barbed wire fence after being spooked by low-flying Chinooks.
& Hound 23 December 2004
Linda may be contacted through Riding Safely