Milton Keynes millionaire and four family members died through misadventure in helicopter crash

Kevin Burke's helicopter
Kevin Burke's helicopter

Millionaire Milton Keynes businessman Kevin Burke failed to observe basic pilot training in the helicopter crash that killed him and four members of his family, an inquest heard.


The 56-year-old businessman, who had traces of cocaine in his body, was flying his personal helicopter to a family event in Dublin with his wife, two brothers and sister-in-law.

Although the weather had initially been good, it started deteriorating as the Burkes approached Snowdonia in Wales and flew into low cloud - obscuring the top of the mountains.

It was possible he flew into the cloud inadvertently, the inquest heard.

Paul Hannant, from the Air Accident Investigation Branch, said: “Ideally because of the limitations of the pilot’s licence he probably should have turned back. But he carried on.

It was “sheer bad luck” that Mr Burke clipped the top of the mountain, he said. He was an experienced pilot with more than 3,600 flying hours behind him.

Mr Burke, who was boss of Tubular Erectors Ltd in Bletchley, was killed instantly, along with his wife Ruth, who was 49.

His businessmen brothers Barry, 51, and Donald, 55, also died, along with Donald’s wife Sharon.

The coroner was told the traces of cocaine later found in Mr Burke’s kidneys were “unlikely” to have affected his flying on that fateful day in March last year.

The drug had been taken some days earlier, said pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers.

Verdicts of misadventure were recorded for Mr Burke and all four of his passengers.

The tragedy devastated the Burke family and meant Bletchley mum Noeleen Burke lost three sons.

Mrs Burke, in her 80s, had moved to England from Ireland with her late husband Donal when the boys were children.

All the sons settled in and around Milton Keynes. Kevin and Ruth lived in Hulcote with their two teenage children, while property developer Donald and his wife Sharon lived in Bletchley with their son and twin daughters,

Barry Burke, a self-employed property maintenance man lived on Oldbrook with his partner and one son.

“Our family has changed within the space of a day,” said Donald and Sharon’s daughter Olivia after the crash.

“They were taken far too soon and it’s hard for us to understand why such a tragedy would happen to the best type of people, who were so selfless and genuine to everyone they met,” she added.

Kevin Burke, a former Lord Grey schoolboy, owned two helicopters and used them regularly for work and pleasure.

His construction company helped build the complex steel roofing structure at the nearby Stadium MK.

He was also director of solar panel company Ecocommercial Ltd, TE Design and Build Ltd and Jacqueline Loftus Ltd.

Over the years Mr Burke had set up several other companies with his accountant Momcilo Novakovic.

All five of the deceased would have been killed instantly in the crash, the inquest heard.