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Death of cameraman in Sutherland mid-air paramotor crash set to be investigated by Fatal Accident Inquiry

By Alasdair Fraser

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Dan Burton (54) was killed in the collision. Picture: Conservation Without Borders
Dan Burton (54) was killed in the collision. Picture: Conservation Without Borders

A fatal accident inquiry is set to investigate the tragic death of a cameraman in a mid-air paramotor collision in Sutherland.

Dan Burton (54) perished while filming with conservationist adventurer Sacha Dench on a round-Britain challenge to raise awareness on climate change.

Ms Dench, known as ‘the Human Swan’, was found conscious with serious non life-threatening injuries near Loch na Gainmhich on September 18, 2021.

The loch’s spectacular Wailing Widow Falls draw large numbers of visitors to the area between Skiag Bridge and Kylesku south of Unapool.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has now lodged a first notice to begin the court process for a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into Mr Burton’s death.

The preliminary hearing is set for February 26 at Tain Sheriff Court.

RELATED STORY: Climate campaigner Sacha Dench survives Highland paraglider crash which killed cameraman Dan Burton

FAIs seek to determine the cause of death, the circumstances surrounding it and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent it.

Unlike criminal proceedings, the process is inquisitorial in nature, establishing facts rather than apportioning blame.

It is anticipated that the FAI will consider any precautions which could reasonably have been taken to prevent Mr Burton’s death.

It will also look at any defects in systems of working which contributed to the tragedy.

Procurator Fiscal Andy Shanks, who leads death investigations for COPFS, said: “The death of Dan Burton occurred while in the course of his employment and, as such, a Fatal Accident Inquiry is mandatory.

Loch na Gainmhich. Picture: VisitScotland.
Loch na Gainmhich. Picture: VisitScotland.

“The lodging of the First Notice enables FAI proceedings to commence under the direction of the Sheriff.

“Mr Burton’s family will continue to be kept informed of significant developments as court proceedings progress.”

Ms Dench was attempting a 3000-plus mile circumnavigation of Britain, flying a specially adapted, green electricity powered paramotor.

The biologist was attempting a Guinness World Record for the greatest distance flown by electric paramotor in a 30-day period as part of her Round Britain Climate Challenge.

Having lost her family home to Australian bushfires, Ms Dench conceived the expedition to "help inspire and excite the nation", enabling people to get involved in tackling the climate crisis.

Following the accident, Ms Dench’s charity Conservation Without Borders expressed sorrow at the death of Mr Burton in a statement, adding: “Both were highly experienced paramotorists."

Tim Hamlet, leader of Assynt Mountain Rescue Team, attended the accident with his 14-strong team and said: “A hillwalker had witnessed the accident and raised the alarm.

"When we got there our people concentrated on helping her – she was in remarkably good spirits given the circumstances and conscious and talking to the team.

"We found a very busy accident scene just 400 to 500 feet from the road, but the co-operation from all the emergency services and other responders was phenomenal.

“I am very proud of the job our team did.

“Our sympathies go to the deceased's family and we wish the lady a speedy recovery."

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