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Cornwall hotelier fined for endangerment with helicopter

falmouth-hotelThe millionaire proprietor of the Richardson Hotels chain has been fined £3,000 for a helicopter accident at one of his hotels. Keith Richardson appeared in court in Bodmin, Cornwall late last week where he pleaded guilty to a charge of negligent endangerment with an aircraft.  

The charge arose from an incident at the Richardson group’s Falmouth Hotel on 19 August 2014. The court heard that on the day in question Mr Richardson took off from the hotel’s grounds at about 15:00 in his Robinson R44 helicopter and while doing so a downdraft caused a parasol to go flying.

The parasol hit a 16-year-old girl on her shoulder. Paramedics who attended the scene said the girl only had superficial injuries to her shoulder. Mr Richardson conducted his own defence and offered the theory that a sudden blast of wind may have been a contributory factor to the parasol’s flight. 

The court also heard that two of the hotel’s staff in high-vis waistcoats supervised the takeoff from the lawn to ensure safety protocols were followed. In mitigation, Mr Richardson stated that employees now followed a more comprehensive checklist when he landed and took off from his hotels.

The 76-year-old hotelier also owns the Grosvenor and Grand hotels in Torquay, Padstow’s Metropole Hotel and the Fowey Hotel in Fowey as well as the Falmouth Hotel. He told the court he used the helicopter to commute to and from his different properties.  

In addition to the fine, the magistrates also ordered Mr Richardson to pay £1,104 in court costs. The Civil Aviation Authority originally pursued the charge. Prosecutor Alison Slater said that downdrafts were one of the first things helicopter pilots learnt about in basic training and the incident was a direct result of shoddy airmanship.

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