Lord Ballyedmond confirmed as one of four victims in Norfolk helicopter crash

One of the people killed when a helicopter crashed in thick fog at Gillingham was Northern Ireland peer Lord Ballyedmond, it was confirmed this morning.

Lord Ballyedmond, one of the richest men in Northern Ireland, was chairman of Norbrook, the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world.

The 70-year-old owned Gillingham Hall, a stately home near the crash site.

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Born Edward Haughey in Co Louth in 1944, he spent four years in the United States in the 1960s before returning home to found Norbrook, just outside Newry.

He once owned Carlisle Airport and a 1,000-acre estate in Cumbria.

Lord Ballyedmond, estimated to be worth £500m, was made a life peer in 2004 and sat in the British House of Lords on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, before switching to the Conservative Party.

According to the Register of Lords' interests, Lord Ballyedmond owned Gillingham Hall, a stately home near the crash site. The register also states that he was a controlling shareholder of Haughey Airports Limited, an airport operator, and Haughey Air Limited, an airport transport company.

Police and ambulance crews were called to Gillingham at 7.30pm last night and discovered the crash site after searching the area.

Lord Ballyedmond is the only one of the four people confirmed dead who has been named.

He leaves a wife, two sons and a daughter.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Reg Empey has known the Haughey family for 25 years.

He said: 'Lord Ballyedmond was one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and indeed these islands. He brought high-quality employment opportunities to this country during its darkest days.

'This tragic accident has cut short the life of a man who had still much to give. The family circle will be numbed by the tragedy.'

Ulster Unionist Stormont assembly member Danny Kennedy said he was stunned.

He added: 'Lord Ballyedmond was a determined businessman who brought much-needed employment to my own constituency of Newry and Armagh. He built a world class business from scratch and at the same time managed to base it locally.

'He will be sadly missed throughout the business community in Northern Ireland and wider afield. I offer my deepest sympathies to Lady Mary and the children.'

Stormont enterprise minister Arlene Foster said: 'Without doubt, Lord Ballyedmond was one of Northern Ireland's most successful entrepreneurs, and he was known for his leadership, integrity and global vision.

'One-of-a-kind and a self-made businessman, he was both highly regarded and widely respected by all those who knew him.

'Norbrook Laboratories currently exports to more than 120 countries worldwide and Lord Ballyedmond worked tirelessly to promote Northern Ireland as an investment location.

'Not only has he made a huge contribution to the local economy but Lord Ballyedmond also devoted much of his time to charitable works and this is to be highly commended.'

South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said he was unique.

'He was a major employer in the Co Down area and invested a lot of money.

'He got up and at it and he possessed those attributes required to make you a successful businessman but he also was a major employer and a lot of families had connections with him through that.'

Karen McKevitt, a Northern Ireland Assembly Member representing South Down, paid tribute to the pharmaceuticals entrepreneur and politician.

She said: 'It is feared that there are other casualties from the South Down area.

'It is very, very shocking news for everyone here. Edward Haughey is the biggest employer in the area, he has done a tremendous amount of work for local charities and schools, and is very, very well known.

'It is his employees who have the greatest respect for him in the area.

'The whole of Northern Ireland will be devastated by this news. It is very raw.

'I do know that the Police Service of Northern Ireland have been contacted but we haven't been given any details.'

The man who died with him was named locally as Declan Small, 42, a foreman who worked for Lord Ballyedmond. He came from Mayobridge, Co Down.

Lord Ballyedmond was born in 1944 in Dundalk, Co Louth, and began his pharmaceutical career in the US in the 1960s selling animal drugs.

He returned to Newry in Co Down to set up his own business and founded Norbrook more than 40 years ago.

The company proved to be a highly innovative business and increased its margins by making many of the raw ingredients used in its medicines.

He expanded into Africa and is reportedly one of the largest veterinarian suppliers on the continent.

Two of his companies, Norbrook Laboratories and Norbrook Holdings, employ 1,300 people worldwide, 1,000 of them in Northern Ireland.

He also owned an air travel business, and at one stage the lease of Carlisle Airport in Cumbria, which he sold in 2008.

Apart from Northern Ireland and London, he had a house in Dublin's expensive Fitzwilliam Square, close to the city centre, owned two islands on Lake Victoria in Uganda, and was a collector of rare plants and trees.

In July 2008 he was made an honorary doctor of science by the University of Ulster.

He was married with two sons and a daughter. He was made a life peer as Baron Ballyedmond of Mourne.