Four killed in US military helicopter crash in Norfolk
Published 07/01/2014 | 21:52
Four people are believed to have died in a helicopter crash in Norfolk, police said tonight.
The incident happened in Cley-next-the-Sea, in the north of the county.
Norfolk Police said: "Police are currently dealing with a single helicopter crash in the Cley area, on the North Norfolk coast. There are believed to be four fatalities. Officers are on the scene, with a 400 metre area cordoned off."
A spokesman for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution said: "We were asked for three lifeboats to respond to reports that an aircraft had possibly ditched in the sea.
"Lifeboats Wells, Sheringham and Cromer were launched at the request of the coastguard but were stood down when it was confirmed that the aircraft had come down over land."
There were reports that a US military helicopter was involved. It was understood that there was no British military involvement.
With reports that the helicopter involved was a US military Black Hawk from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, aviation expert Chris Yates said the accident would "obviously have an impact" on Black Hawk operations.
Speaking on BBC News, Mr Yates said Black Hawks were primarily in use with the US military but that there were a number in the RAF fleet.
Mr Yates said: "The Black Hawk has a relatively good safety record and can fly in various different modes, so it's quite surprising that this has happened. The weather could have played a part.
"If something has gone wrong, if there has been some sort of defect thane obviously this will have an impact on Black Hawk operations."
The base is a Royal Air Force station near Mildenhall, Suffolk. It hosts US Air Force units and personnel.
Cley is a picturesque village, one mile east of Blakeney and four miles north of Holt, on the main coast road between Wells and Sheringham.
Well known for its windmill and church, the village has a nature reserve famous as a birdwatching site.
The area is popular with walkers and tourists, who enjoy the views and wildlife.
Richard Kelham, chairman of Cley Parish Council, said: "It looks as though the military helicopter has come down in the middle of the bird reserve. The incident is very sad and there is a 400m cordon surrounding the area."
Police have said residents can stay in their homes but pedestrians and motorists are being diverted away as there is live ammunition on board, which could pose a threat to the public.
A number of cordons are in place, closing nearby residential streets.
Around a dozen emergency vehicles from the fire brigade, coastguard and police are at the scene.
Cley artist Rachel Lockwood, from the village's Pinkfoot Gallery, said: "We had never seen so many police cars and fire engines, so went to have a look.
"The beach road to Cley is sealed off. There are lots of fire engines near the Dun Cow pub at Salthouse. A helicopter is hovering over the marsh with a light beaming down."