Cash claim for deaths trauma

A coroner's officer who says he is haunted by the memories of 11 men killed in a helicopter crash is suing Norfolk police for damages of £150,000.Ex-police officer Brian Sweales claims to have suffered a breakdown after dealing with the crash off the coast of Yarmouth.

A coroner's officer who says he is haunted by the memories of 11 men killed in a helicopter crash is suing Norfolk police for damages of £150,000.

Ex-police officer Brian Sweales claims to have suffered a breakdown after dealing with the crash off the coast of Yarmouth.

The Sikorsky helicopter crashed in the North Sea on July 17, 2002, while travelling between oil rigs, killing 11 men, six of whom were from Norfolk

Mr Sweales, of New Close, Acle, is suing police claiming he was given insufficient support following the incid-ent, as he carried out his work of investigating the deaths.

However, the force has said it does not accept his accusations.

The 64-year-old claims that at one point the force was negligent in making him work 22 hours straight.

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The High Court writ states the 11 crash victims were horrifically mutilated and Mr Sweales had to help match body parts. He spent two weeks liaising with bereaved families, arranging for them to see the bodies and organising post mortems.

But he claims he did not receive any counselling over the incident until May 2005, while other officers were supported immediately after the tragedy.

Mr Sweales was signed off work with acute stress a week after his first counselling session and has been unable to work since, it is claimed.

The writ blames his breakdown on excessive stress and workload which could have been avoided if he had been given counselling earlier.

Norfolk police is accused of failing to take into account the impact of the tragedy and of negligently failing to have regard for his mental health.

Mr Sweales worked for Norfolk police between August 1961 and April 1986, and as a coroner's officer from 1979 until he retired from the force.

He then worked as a civilian coroner's officer between 1986 and July 2, 2006, when he retired through ill health.

Through his solicitor, Mr Sweales declined to comment on the case.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said: “A claim has been lodged against the constabulary and because it is ongoing, we are not in a position to comment any further at this time.”

The helicopter, piloted by two crew members from Norwich-based Bristow, was carrying nine workers 25 miles from the Shell-owned Santa Fe Monarch rig, 45 miles north east of Lowestoft, when it crashed 400ft into the sea.

A subsequent report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded it had suffered from a “manufact-uring anomaly”.

This was made worse by damage from a lightning strike in 1999.

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