Local News for Friday 15th June 2018

Pilot confirmed dead in helicopter crash
The 58-year-old pilot of a helicopter which crashed into a loch in North Uist on Wednesday has been confirmed as the only casualty of the accident. The man sadly died at the scene. Police said yesterday that his next of kin had been informed and that no other people were on board the helicopter at the time. The pilot was working at a fish farm in a loch south of Lochmaddy when the small AS350 Squirrel helicopter went into the loch. Despite an intensive rescue operation involving coastguard teams and other emergency services he did not survive the crash. Chief Inspector Ian Graham, Area Commander for the Western Isles said: "Firstly, our thoughts are with the man's family and the local community at this difficult time. Our enquiries into this are ongoing and we are liaising with other agencies, including the Air Accidents Investigation Bureau, in order to establish the full circumstances.”

Happy tourists bring boost to islands
Most tourists who visited the islands in 2017 were ‘very satisfied’ with their visit, according to an Islands visitor survey report presented this week to the Comhairle’s sustainable development committee. 82% of visitors gave the satisfaction score, citing the friendliness of local people and high quality accommodation as the reason they enjoyed their visit so much. The quality and value for money of visitor attractions was also commended and local food produce, arts and crafts also received praise. The most significant area of dissatisfaction was the poor digital connectivity many experienced during their stay. Average spend during visits was up to £309 per head from the 2013 figure of £245. The estimated value of tourism to the Outer Hebrides in 2017 was £64.5million, up by 20% from 2013. Cllr Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Committee, said: “The findings of the Outer Hebrides Visitor Survey 2017 are extremely welcome and encouraging, demonstrating that the region is on-course to achieve ambitious targets outlined in the Tourism Outer Hebrides 2020 Strategy."

Midge-biters rally
Stornoway will be a hot-spot for bikers today as the 2018 Midge-Biters Rally gets underway. The rally is based at Stornoway Golf Club, with live bands programmed tonight and tomorrow. The main ride-out is due to leave the Golf Club at 12.30pm on Saturday, with a parade of bikes around the town centre before the main group heads out of town. This year the rally will be supporting Action for Children Eilean Siar, with all money raised staying within the islands.

Cruise ships re-arrange
Yesterday’s wild weather led to some changes of plan among shipping due to call into Stornoway Port. The Ocean Endeavour cancelled its call and plans to try and come alongside again today. The Black Watch, also due yesterday, should now be anchored off Arnish this morning and begin tendering first thing. The first of nine buses carrying some of the 800 passengers on island tours is due to leave at 8am. Hebridean Princess is also due in on Friday, and the Serenissima on Saturday.

Co-op Cup quarter-final football matches are due to be played at the weekend – Point v Back at Garrabost tonight at 7pm, and matches tomorrow between Westside and United at 12 noon, Barra v Carloway at 1.45pm and Ness against Lochs at Fivepenny at 7pm.