Aircraft that crashed near Beccles on Norfolk-Suffolk border was reportedly travelling to Northern Ireland
Four people have been killed after a helicopter crashed in thick fog at a small village on the Norfolk-Suffolk border.Police were called to the incident at the village of Gillingham, near Beccles, at about 7.30pm on Thursday night and it crashed near a stately home owned by Northern Ireland’s richest person Lord Ballyedmond.
Ballyedmond, better known as business man Edward Haughey, is head of the leading veterinary pharmaceuticals company Norbrook Laboratories and Haughey Air, a helicopter charter firm. Officers and emergency services were called to the scene which was cordoned off. Police confirmed that the aircraft was civilian rather than military, and that the area of the crash site has been cordoned off. A spokesman confirmed that all four occupants of the aircraft were killed.
An East of England Ambulance Service spokesman said, “Ambulance resources have now been stood down from the scene. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those who have lost their lives tonight. “EEAST sent a number of resources to the incident including two ambulance officers, three ambulances, two doctors and one rapid response car.” A spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said it will be sending a team to investigate.
Gillingham is a small village in the south of Norfolk with a population of about 650.
Roland Bronk, owner of The Swan House inn and restaurant in Beccles, said, “It was very foggy in the area. I heard customers talk about a lot of police activity and ambulances”. It is not yet known whether fog, which beset much of England earlier in the day, played a factor in the crash, although the visibility was reported to be poor in the area on Thursday night.
James Avery, 34, from Great Yarmouth, said, “I was outside McDonald’s in Beccles and heard the helicopter take off from across the road. It was flying low and no more than 30 seconds later I heard a big bang followed by the sound of the turbine engine quickly stopping. It was like a whistling sound.Me and a friend ran across the road to the field where we thought it may have crashed but with the heavy fog, we were unable to see much of anything. There were some guys on scooters who were already in the field. So we just went back to McDonald’s and got the attendant to ring the emergency services.”
Taxi driver Mark Murray, 22, from Beccles, said, “There is a large stately home nearby and you often see helicopters coming and going from there. When they have a game shoot the guests often all arrive in separate helicopters. We don’t know if that is linked, but that’s the only helicopter activity we see in this area.”
The site of the crash is about 45 miles from 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, in January.