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Saturday 20 September 2014

Four people believed dead in civilian helicopter crash

Published 13/03/2014 | 22:10

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It is not known what type of helicopter it is or how many passengers were on board
It is not known what type of helicopter it is or how many passengers were on board

Four people are believed to have died in a civilian helicopter crash in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk police said.

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The emergency services were called at 7.30pm following reports the aircraft had come down in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk.

Norfolk Police said the area of the crash site has been cordoned off.

It is not known what type of helicopter it is or how many passengers were on board.

The site is 45 miles from the spot where four crew members died when a US military helicopter crashed in Norfolk on a training mission in a nature reserve in Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk.

A spokeswoman for East of England Ambulance Service said: "We got called to reports of a helicopter crash near Beccles and we sent several resources to the scene, including doctors."

There are currently unconfirmed reports that a well-known Irish businessman was fatally injured in the crash this evening.

It is believed that the aircraft was travelling to Northern Ireland when the incident occurred.

The Norfolk crash is the latest in a grim series of helicopter disasters air accident investigators have had to probe in recent years.

In this case, with thick fog reported in the area, it seems likely that the weather is going to be a major factor in the inquiry by the Farnborough-based Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) team.

Experts say it is easy for helicopter crews to become disorientated in adverse weather conditions.

Also, as has been proved in other crashes, the slightest thing going wrong with a helicopter can lead to disaster.

It is only a few weeks since Norfolk witnessed another fatal helicopter accident when four US service personnel were killed in a Pave Hawk crash.

Last November, the AAIB found itself looking into another deadly incident when 10 people, including three on board a Eurocopter EC135 helicopter, were killed when the aircraft fell on to a packed pub in Glasgow.

The AAIB is still investigating this incident but have issued interim reports, the latest of which said the helicopter suffered double engine failure.

Last August a Super Puma L2 carrying oil rig workers ditched in the North Sea. Four poeple died while 14 survived. The AAIB's investigation has found no evidence of any technical failure.

A Super Puma EC225 helicopter plunged into the water off the Aberdeenshire coast claiming 16 lives in April 2009. A fatal accident inquiry was eventually held and the findings were announced today.

The inquiry concluded that the accident could have been prevented. The AAIB had earlier said there was a catastrophic failure of the gearbox.

In January last year, London commuters witnessed a fatal incident in which a helicopter crashed into a crane during the rush hour in Vauxhall, south London.

Veteran pilot Pete Barnes died in the crash, as did Matthew Wood, 39, from Sutton, south London, as he walked to work. Five people were taken to hospital and seven were treated at the scene.

The North Sea accidents prompted the Civil Aviation Authority to issue a safety review last month. This sought to incorporate lessons learnt from the earlier tragedies.

Air investigators and transport minister Robert Goodwill are due to give evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee on Monday in its investigation into offshore helicopter safety.

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