Update: Four people believed to have died in Gillingham helicopter crash
PUBLISHED: 09:17 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:17 14 March 2014
Four people have died in a helicopter crash close to the Suffolk/Norfolk border last night.
Police were called to Gillingham, near Beccles at about 7.30pm and discovered the crash site after searching the area, where conditions were very foggy.
Norfolk Police said the helicopter had been confirmed as a civilian aircraft and the four occupants on board were thought to have died in the crash.
Next of kin will be informed before further details of the deceased are released.
It is believed the helicopter was en route to Northern Ireland. Norfolk police have been in contact with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The East of England Ambulance Service have now stood down. In a statement they said: “Sadly, it is believed that four people in the helicopter are believed to have died in the crash. 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.”
The Ambulance Service were called at 7.45pm and sent a number of resources to the incident including two ambulance officers, three ambulances, two doctors and one rapid response car.
Colin Worboys, the proprietor of The White Lion Pub in Mardle Road, Beccles, said: “I’ve seen a lot of activity on the main road with emergency services going past. Nobody knew what it was about but one customer said he’d seen emergency services around the church in Gillingham.”
Early reports on Facebook suggest the helicopter crashed behind the church in the village. It is believed to have crashed in woodland.
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.”
A member of bar staff at the Decoy Tavern in Fritton said there had been a flurry of activity at around 8pm.
She said: “There were two ambulances, a police patrol car and a paramedic car, but we’ve not heard or seen anything since. The road is clear and the traffic is going both ways at the moment.”
Lorraine Greenwood, who lives in Church Road, Gillingham, said: “From about 8pm there have been loads of police cars, fire engines and ambulances going past here.
“I don’t think they were sure where it was in the fog because some were going round the roundabout and back again.
“I didn’t hear any crash but I did see two other helicopters that looked like police helicopters circling.”
Roland Bronk, owner of The Swan House inn and restaurant in Beccles said it was “very foggy” in the area. Mr Bronk said he heard customers talk about “a lot of police activity and ambulances”.
Helen Roberts, a forecaster at the Met Office, confirmed that large parts of East Anglia had been hit by mist tonight.
She said: “There has certainly been some fog around south Norfolk, and the Norwich area has been in fog.
“There has been widespread mist around East Anglia and low visibility quite widely across East Anglia. Mist means low visibility, and it has been misty quite widely throughout the evening.”
One Twitter user, Andrew89mufc, described hearing the helicopter coming down near his house.
He wrote: “I live in Worlingham on Park Drive. My garden backs on to the woodland leading to Gillingham. I heard a helicopter circling the house for about 15 mins at around 7:45. This may have been air ambulance or police searching tho.”
He added: “Can’t see my hand in front of my face. No sign of scene of crash.”
A spokesman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said it will be sending a team to investigate.