Activists slam airbase after 'bombing'

PEACE protestors have condemned an American airbase after a dummy bomb was accidentally dropped on Yorkshire farmland during a routine training mission.

PEACE protestors have condemned an American airbase after a dummy bomb was accidentally dropped on Yorkshire farmland during a routine training mission.

An investigation has begun after pilots from RAF Lakenheath somehow released an inactive bomb, which buried itself several feet in the ground and caused a hole measuring 18ins in diameter.

Amazingly no one was injured after the two-person crew from a F-15E Strike Eagle dropped the 25pound BDU-33 training munition over a rural part of east Yorkshire.

But a member of Lakenheath Action Group, set up to campaign for the removal of nuclear weapons, said the narrow escape was just another example of why the base should be closed down.

Mel Harrison said: "This incident shows how easy these things can happen and it quite easily could have been carrying something which would have caused even more danger.

"If it had fallen on a housing estate or if there had been nuclear weapons on board, the accident would have been a lot more terrible and caused a lot more devastation.

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"We want the base to close down - as I am sure this won't be the last time."

US air chiefs played down the incident but admitted it was fortunate no one was hurt after the bomb dropped over farmland near Howden and Market Weighton in East Yorkshire.

Base spokesman Lt Ed Ekpoudom said: "The result of the impact was pretty significant. The munition caused a hole of about 18ins in diameter and broke the surface of the ground and then came to rest.

"This particular munition has discharged a toxic white smoke upon impact which may or may not have been visible."

An investigation has now begun with the base working with local authorities to establish what happened in the incident, which took place at about 5.15pm on Thursday .

Lt Ekpoudom explained: "It was a routine mission and to have something like this happen is extremely rare. Our aircrews are all extremely well qualified but an investigation is now ongoing.

"We have a highly qualified and experienced team investigating the incident and they will be looking at exactly what happened - we cannot speculate at this stage. We will use the investigation to learn lessons and prevent future mishaps.

"Public safety is a primary concern at RAF Lakenheath and is always a factor in our operational planning. Every effort is always made to minimise the risk to the public."

A Humberside Police spokeswoman said officers had helped in the search for the munition, which has now been recovered by base officials.

People living locally said the device landed on private land used by the Allied Grain plant on the Holme Industrial Estate in Holme upon Spalding Moor, East Yorkshire.

Des D'Souza, a spokesman for Allied Grain, said: "An inert object fell to the ground in an area where we have some grain stores in East Yorkshire.

It caused no disruption to our business whatsoever, apart from when they came to retrieve it.

"It scratched the surface of the concrete but that was all. No real damage.''

One woman, who lives close to the industrial estate but asked not to be named, said she saw police scouring the area where the device landed. There was no sign of any damage from the perimeter fence yesterday.

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