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Bradda Head pilot 'intended to end his own life'

Suicide verdict recorded following plane crash

*A warning that this story contains references of suicide and information which some readers may find upsetting

A pilot who crashed his plane into Bradda Head last year intended to take his own life.

The inquest into the death of Karl Bettoney was concluded at Douglas Courthouse today (24 May).

The 64-year-old died on 17 July 2023 after his Cessna 210 Centurion collided with the cliff face in Port Erin just before 1pm.

The inquest heard the financial advisor, who lived in Laxey, was likely ejected from his plane on impact and would have died instantly from ‘blast and impact’ trauma.

‘Fireball’

Eyewitnesses described how they’d seen the light aircraft flying across the bay, noting it was very low in the air, before crashing into the cliff and turning into a ‘fireball’.  

A holidaymaker, who was at the top of Milner Tower with his wife and dog, described how the plane travelled straight towards him.

Noting how it was lower than the tower itself he said he then heard an ‘explosion’, as it hit the cliff, before seeing thick black smoke.

“I thought to myself is that plane in trouble?” – Eyewitness

‘Inevitable’

Data collected by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which recovered the plane, showed Mr Bettoney had taken off from Ronaldsway at 12.30pm before flying up and down the coast.

He crashed at 12.59pm.

The AAIB told the inquest there was no evidence of any ‘pre-accident disruption’ and there had been no technical failures meaning Mr Bettoney had been in full control as he flew towards the cliff.  

This, the investigator said, meant the pilot would have known a collision was inevitable.

‘Devastated’

Mr Bettoney’s partner told the inquest he’d declined to go into work with her on the morning of 17 July – instead saying he was going for a walk.

However between 12.30pm and 12.59pm he made a series of phone calls to her from inside his plane telling her he was sorry and that he loved her.

She told the coroner, by this point, she was tracking Mr Bettoney’s flight path when she saw the plane stop: “I could not understand what I was seeing,” she added.

The inquest heard Mr Bettoney – who was described as a ‘very positive man who loved life’ - had been suffering with anxiety and depression before his death.  

Mr Bettoney’s family had sought assistance from the Crisis Referral Team following concerns over his mental health.  

The inquest was also told internet searches showed he’d had suicidal thoughts and a note had been found in his bedside table which suggested he intended to end his own life.

A friend who’d spoken to Mr Bettoney at Ronaldsway on the morning of the fatal flight told the inquest: “I did not want him flying as he was emotional and upset.”

‘Intent’

Describing Mr Bettoney as a ‘competent and experienced’ pilot Coroner of Inquests James Brooks said there had perhaps been suicidal intent ‘flickering in and out’ before the day of the crash.

Recording a verdict of suicide Coroner Brooks said the pilot would have known the result of flying towards the cliffs on the day in question adding: “The deceased’s intention at the time was to end his own life.”

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story there are details of local organisations that provide advice and support HERE.

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