Helicopter pilot shot while tracking Tanzania poachers 'died doing heroic work'

A helicopter pilot from Birmingham shot by elephant poachers in Tanzania died doing "heroic and important work" an inquest heard.

Roger Gower, 37, was helping authorities in the east African country track criminals after an animal was killed and stripped of its ivory tusks when they opened fire on his aircraft with AK-47 assault rifles on January 29.

The inquest on Thursday heard that he survived the crash landing of the helicopter, which had been flying at low level on the Mwiba Wildlife Ranch.

But he went quiet just five minutes before a doctor could get to where he lay awaiting rescue near the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania's north.

A picture of the helicopter wreckage Credit: Wildlife At Risk

Nick Bester, who was the passenger in the helicopter, broke his back in the crash landing.

In a statement read at the hearing in west London on Thursday, he described how, after finding the carcass, Mr Gower had spotted what turned out to be a backpack with ivory in it on the ground.

Nick Bester said:

"We were then fired upon from bushes below us.

Nick Bester

Mr Bester said that Mr Gower's wounds meant he could not control the helicopter and it came down.

Despite his own injuries, he managed to free the pilot, drag him to cover and use the first aid kit to bandage his wounds before collapsing himself.

Jeremy Chipperfield, the assistant coroner for west London, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing at his inquest, saying:

"Roger Gower was involved in heroic and important work when he was attacked by suspected elephant poachers, and the injuries sustained from the bullet wounds and or from the crash when his helicopter landed caused his death."

Jeremy Chipperfield