Two killed in helicopter sea crash
Two men died when a helicopter crashed into the sea today, police said.
Their bodies were recovered from the aircraft shortly after 5pm, a Humberside Police spokesman said.
The helicopter crashed into the sea at Flamborough, East Yorkshire, at around 1.40pm.
A major recovery operation was carried out after the helicopter was seen crashing into the sea by a member of the public.
The police spokesman said: " Emergency services including the air ambulance, the coast guard and air sea rescue attended the area right away and a search was carried out which resulted in the helicopter being located in the sea off the coast of Flamborough near the light house.
"Two men were recovered from the aircraft shortly before 1700 hours. Both sadly deceased.
"The Air Accident Investigation Branch will be leading the investigation into the incident to establish the circumstances which resulted in the aircraft crashing into the sea."
The helicopter was a private charter, which had taken off from an airfield near Edinburgh earlier this morning and was due to refuel at Humberside Airport before continuing to its destination near Retford, Nottinghamshire.
Earlier, witnesses spoke of their horror as they watched the helicopter drop into the sea below sheer 250 foot high cliffs.
Chris Palmer, 33, a builder from Dunswell, East Yorkshire, said he was in shock after seeing the helicopter crash.
He went on: "I was with my parents, we all saw the helicopter flying along the coastline, we heard a big crack and saw the helicopter start to descend like a plane and go behind the cliffs.
"By the time I got to the cliffs, there was no sign of it because it had gone under the water. We're in shock that it's happened. It's an absolute tragedy."
Golfers at Flamborough Head Golf Club said they thought the helicopter was trying to land near the club's 17th green.
Rod Marwood, 67, the course chairman at the club, said he was about 400 yards away when the helicopter crashed.
He said: "There were quite a few members out on the course and we see helicopters flying backwards and forwards all the time. This one was just a small, two to four seater one flying along. I didn't really take much notice of it when all of a sudden the engine noise changed.
"When I looked, it was already starting to bank a little bit. I thought it was trying to land on the edge of the golf course but it disappeared over the side of the cliffs.
"I didn't hear anything but I think it hit the cliffs before it went into the sea and then there was a smell of aviation fuel."
The rescue operation involved an RAF helicopter, coastguard, air ambulance, lifeboats and the ambulance service.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: " A search-and-rescue Sea King helicopter from RAF Leconfield (in East Yorkshire) was on a training exercise and was very quickly on the scene.
"The tide was high and the Sea King crew were not able to recover anybody from the helicopter before having to return to Leconfield to refuel.
"The Sea King has returned to the crash scene."
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "The Humber Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre received a call at 1.40pm that a small helicopter had gone into the water below the cliff, between the lighthouse and Flamborough Head golf course.
"A coastguard officer was winched down to assess the crash site by the search and rescue helicopter from Leconfield."
A spokeswoman for Yorkshire Air Ambulance also had a crew at the scene and two lifeboats were launched.
A spokeswoman for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed that a team had been sent to the scene to investigate.
Humberside Police said the crash site was potentially unsafe due to dangerous cliff edges and aviation fuel in the water and appealed to members of the public to avoid the area.
The accident is the latest in a series of helicopter crashes in recent months. The worst was the Glasgow incident last November when a helicopter on a police operation crashed on to the roof of a pub. Ten people died.