The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has renewed the church’s pledge to support the families of the Mull of Kintyre RAF Chinook air disaster following the decision to have another enquiry into the crash that claimed all 29-lives onboard.
Right Reverend John Christie, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has also this week written to the Right Honourable Lord Philip who is leading a new investigation into the 1994 tragedy.
It is hoped the enquiry by Lord Philip’s Chinook Airworthiness Review Team (CHART) will ultimately clear the names of RAF pilots Flight Lieutenant Jonathan Tapper and Flight Lieutenant Richard Cook, blamed of gross negligence, although initially cleared by an RAF Board of Enquiry.
Mr Christie said: “It is almost inconceivable now that it has been nearly 17-years since the Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre. And to think that after all that time, still the families of the victims are unable to properly move on because of what they see as a gross injustice. I sincerely hope that the Ministry of Defence does review the findings of the inquiry and while I cannot predict what that outcome will be, I hope that a great injustice can be set right. We will continue to stand alongside the families until a satisfactory outcome is achieved.”
It was for that reason that a section of the Deliverance from the committee Church and Nation relating to this was approved by the General Assembly in 2004 which said “re-iterate the pastoral concern of the Church for the families of the victims, and renew the call to the Ministry of Defence to reconsider the judgement of “gross negligence” on the pilots of the aircraft
It is significant that the case of the pilots was first brought to the attention of the General Assembly when the Presbytery of Argyll brought a petition on their behalf to the Assembly of 2003. On that day, members of the families of the pilots were in the public galleries of the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh. Later they spoke of the comfort and support they had received from the Kirk.
Mr Christie said: “The Church of Scotland initially became involved through pastoral concern for human beings and grieving families. Through moments of prayer on a bleak hillside, through memorial services and anniversaries, those relationships between the families and the people of Argyll have endured for all these years.”
In the years since the crash, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has developed a strong sense that it must stand with the grieving families and continue to speak out against the injustice done to these young pilots.