A PIONEERING businessman who ran a top Lake District tourist attraction died this morning when his helicopter crashed on an isolated fellside.

The body of Mark Weir, 45, of Mosser in Cockermouth, was found in the wreckage of his stricken machine in the early hours – just 200 metres from Honister Slate Mine, which he bought and built up into a 60,000-visitors-a-year attraction.

Mr Weir’s family raised the alarm at 10pm last night when he failed to return home from work.

The father-of-three, an experienced pilot who had been flying for decades, used the helicopter to commute from home to work.

He has been heralded as a ‘Lake District legend’ with a ‘massive’ personality who will be sadly missed by family, friends and the community.

Police and 30 members of Cockermouth and Keswick mountain rescue teams, with search dogs, were deployed to search the area.

They were assisted by an aircraft from RAF Kinloss.

Michael Park, of Cockermouth Mountain Rescue Team, said: "We went to the likely places with the vehicles to search.

"The weather was particularly bad as it was windy with low cloud and with sleet and snow."

Members of the Cockermouth Mountain Rescue team found the wreckage and Mr Weir’s body at 12.44am in a remote spot between Borrowdale and Buttermere.

The remains of the helicopter were spread over 100 metres of the fell.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue assisted Cumbria Police and provided lighting at the scene but said they did not have to put out any fires.

Cumbria Police said it was treating the incident as a 'tragic accident', which is now being investigated by the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch, which is part of the Department for Transport and responsible for the investigation of civil aircraft accidents.

DCI Tony Bolton, head of CID for West Cumbria, said that the cause of the accident was ‘unknown’ and that police did not believe there were any eyewitnesses.

The entrepreneur, who had a lucky escape in the Cockermouth floods of 2009, opened the award-winning Honister Slate Mine - England’s last remaining working slate mine - 14 years ago.

Mr Weir saved the mine, which now produces the world-famous Westmorland Green Slate, from extinction as a tribute to his late grandfather, who once worked there.

Mr Weir had flown his grandfather over the derelict mine and noticed how upset he had been by its closure and the loss of jobs across the rural valley of Borrowdale.

The businessman’s promise to visitors was: “Every penny you spend at Honister remains in the local community and helps support a future for our young people”.