THE parents of one of the Bury air cadets killed in a helicopter crash, are demanding an apology from "embarrassed" RAF and Ministry of Defence chiefs.

Amanda Whitehead (17) and Mark Oakden (16) drowned along with 15-year-old Christopher Bailey from Horwich, when a Wessex helicopter they were travelling in plunged into a lake near Llanberis, North Wales, in 1995.

They were still strapped in their seats when the wreckage was pulled from the water.

Five years on, their families have been awarded nominal compensation after a 1995 board of inquiry revealed the accident was caused by a faulty tail section on the helicopter. Poor maintenance was said to be a contributory factor.

An inquest was held the following year with the coroner recording an "accidental death" verdict.

Families of the Bury youngsters now believe lessons should be learned with regard to procedures in military equipment maintenance, emergency aircraft training, and the way in which civilian families are treated by "the Establishment".

Mrs Sandra Whitehead of Jesmond Drive said: "Quite simply we want a full apology from the RAF and Ministry of Defence for the time taken to investigate this accident and for treating us like second-class citizens.

"This tragedy has embarrassed "the Establishment" which seems not have a procedure for dealing with civilians. When we have sought answers we have been stonewalled at every turn and isolated from a lot of the decisions relating to the matter."

Mark Oakden's parents have also joined the Whiteheads' call for assurances from the MoD that safety recommendations highlighted during the inquiries into the helicopter crash are adopted.

Mr Geoff Oakden, of Gisburn Drive, Bury, believes the Government must ensure weapons and aircraft are properly maintained and its service personnel highly trained if Britain wants to remain as a credible military power in the world.

He said: "The best tribute the Government could pay to Mark, Amanda and Christopher is to ensure that repairs to military aircraft and machinery are not done on the cheap."

Both families believe seeking an apology from the RAF is futile, although the Whiteheads say they will pursue the matter "for Amanda's sake". DIARY of EVENTS.

AUG 12, 1993.

An RAF Wessex helicopter plunges into Llyn Padarn lake near Llanberis in Snowdonia during a routine training sortie. As a result, Cadets Amanda Whitehead, Mark Oakden and Christopher Bailey, enjoying a summer camp at RAF Valley, are killed. The RAF crew and one fellow ATC cadet, Sarah Coker of Cornwall Drive, Bury, survive the crash.

AUG 19, 1993.

The funerals of Cadets Whitehead and Oakden take place at Bury Parish Church with full military honours.

AUG 12, 1994.

The finishing touches are put to an RAF inquiry into the accident. The conclusions of the RAF Board of Inquiry are "expected soon".

FEB, 1995.

Eighteen months after the death crash, the families of the teenagers still await the results of the RAF inquiry.

MAY, 1995.

The Board of Inquiry concludes its investigation. Senior RAF chiefs demand the Board reconvenes after reading the final report.

NOV, 1995.

The Ministry of Defence announce that a tail fault was to blame for the crash. Families of the Bury air cadets take legal advice with a view to suing the MoD. The RAF explain that the delay in the report's publication was because of the "complex and protracted" technical investigations.

JAN, 1996.

At the inquest the coroner criticises the RAF for the inquiry delay. A verdict of accidental death is recorded.

JUNE, 1998.

The MoD make an offer of compensation to each family. The offers are accepted.

SEPT, 1998.

The families request that lessons are learned from the tragedy and that recommendations made at the Board of Inquiry are adopted. The Whiteheads demand an apology for the treatment of the families over the past five years.

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