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14 March 2014, 16:39
The latest on a helicopter crash in Gillingham near Beccles.
16.40 Company Statement - Lord Ballyedmond
It is with sincere sadness and deep regret that the Company confirms our founding Chairman and CEO, Lord Ballyedmond, was one of four people who tragically lost their lives in an aviation accident at Gillingham, Norfolk at approximately 7.30pm on Thursday 13 March 2014.
Norbrook management and staff also mourn the loss of their friends and colleagues Declan Small (Site Foreman), Captain Carl Dickerson (Pilot) and Captain Lee Hoyle (Pilot).
Our thoughts are with the immediate families and friends of the deceased who have requested privacy at this difficult time.
We take enormous pride in our Chairman's extraordinary legacy in establishing Norbrook as a global veterinary and pharmaceutical industry leader. Management will continue to advance his vision with a renewed vigor and determination befitting his memory.
At this time there is no further information.
All the victims have now been named.
Lord Ballyedmond was killed alongside Declan Small, who was one of his employees, as well as pilot Carl Dickerson and co-pilot Lee Hoyle.
13.25 Latest Norfolk police update
A helicopter which crashed last night in Gillingham has been confirmed as taking off from nearby Gillingham Hall.
Police received a call at about 7.30pm Thursday 13 March 2014 from a member of the public who reported hearing the noise of a loud crash off the A143.
The helicopter has been confirmed as an Augusta Westland AW139 helicopter. The four occupants, all males, sadly died in the crash. Next of kin have been informed but formal identification of the deceased is yet to take place. Family Liaison Officers are providing support to relatives.
The crash scene is a considerable area of around 150-200 square metres, including ploughed fields and the main A143 east of the Gillingham (McDonalds) roundabout. There remains a significant cordon around the site, which is standard practice for this type of incident whilst it is examined. Debris has been found on the road and so a number of closures remain in place so the area can be searched. This is being prioritised so that roads may be reopened as soon as possible to minimise disruption to local people.
The police on behalf of HM Coroner are working with partners, including the Air Accident Investigation Branch, to investigate the circumstances surrounding this incident. Close examinations of the scene are taking place at the moment, including support from forensic officers. Detectives with specialist skills from the Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team are leading the investigation to support the Coroner, whilst local officers maintain the cordons and manage traffic.
Silver commander Superintendent Dave Marshall said: "Police, along with our emergency service colleagues and the Air Accident Investigation Branch are now working towards the dignified removal of the four bodies which is expected to take place this afternoon, full examination of the scene and opening roads as quickly as possible.
"The cordon is in place to keep areas sterile and allow the investigation to be carried out sensitively and safely. Some media intrusion at the scene this morning has been unhelpful and we would ask that these cordons are respected so our inquiry can continue and further distress to the families is minimised.
"We appreciate the difficulty that the road closures will create and we apologise to those people that have been affected. As soon as it is appropriate to reopen the nearby roads we will do.”
Police urge the public and members of the media to understand the situation and to have sympathy with the needs of the families of the deceased. This includes respecting the cordons that are in place.
12.28 Statement from manufacturer of helicopter:
The helicopter in the crash is an AW139 - 15-seat medium sized twin-engined helicopter manufactured by Italian company AgustaWestland.
The AW139 is used by both private individuals and companies and helicopter charter, many for offshore support for oil rigs. It is also used by law enforcement and government use in particular air ambulance and coastguard use.
Asked about reports that Lord Ballyedmond was taking legal action against AgustaWestland in relation to possible safety defects with his AW139 VIP helicopter, a spokesman for the company said it was investigating the case.
Speaking from the company's office in Italy, he said: "We cannot comment now because we need to make internal checks to establish exactly what the situation is.
"We cannot yet comment on this accident because there is an investigation pending and there could be many causes, be them technical or due to human error.
"Obviously we are very much regretful of what happened and will support the ongoing investigation in any possible way."
The spokesmen also said that this helicopter is the best selling in its weight class globally. The company has sold more than 750 units in the last 10 years with 850,000 air hours logged and only around 6 accidents. He said all accidents proved a result of human error.
07.43 Latest Norfolk Police Update
Investigations are continuing this morning following a helicopter crash in Gillingham, near Beccles, last night (Thursday 13 March 2014). The location is described as a field off the A143 at the Gillingham roundabout.
Officers received a call at about 7.30pm from a member of the public who reported hearing the noise of a loud crash.
The helicopter has been confirmed as an Augusta Westland AW139 helicopter.
Next of kin are still being informed and police can confirm that the four deceased were all male. No further details will be provided at this time.
The crash scene is a considerable area but this will need to be properly assessed in daylight. There remains a significant cordon around the site, which is standard practice for this type of incident.
At this time the police on behalf of HM Coroner will work with partners, including the Air Accident Investigation Branch, to investigate the circumstances surrounding this incident. Close examinations of the scene will take place during the day, including support from forensic officers.
Chief Superintendent Bob Scully said: "On behalf of the force I would like to pass on my condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of those who have sadly lost their lives in this tragic incident.
"Police, along with our emergency service colleagues have been working through the night to secure the scene.
"Limited investigations have taken place so far due to the dark, cold and foggy conditions. However, with daylight and hopefully clearer conditions a more detailed examination of the crash site can get underway.
"At this time we do not know when the aircraft will be recovered. It is important that the public stay away from the area – the cordon is in place to allow our experts to carry out these processes safely.
"We appreciate the difficulty that the road closures will create and we apologise to those people that have been affected. There are two reasons why we have taken this action; the first is to allow investigators to assess whether there is any debris from the incident on the highway. The second is the close proximity of some of these roads to the crash site.”
07.20 Latest Update
One of the people killed when a helicopter crashed in thick fog was Northern Ireland peer Lord Ballyedmond, according to reports.
Lord Ballyedmond, one of the richest men in Northern Ireland, was chairman of Norbrook, the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world.
Latest from Gillingham Helicopter Crash - Tom Horn - 0700
According to the Register of Lords' Interests, he owned Gillingham Hall, a stately home near the crash site.
He was apparently killed with three other people when a helicopter came down in thick fog in a field in Gillingham, near Beccles, Norfolk, at 7.30pm yesterday.
Emergency services were called and all four people on board were pronounced dead at the scene after it crashed in a field containing a wooded area, Norfolk Police said.
The victims have not yet been formally identified while officers contact their next of kin.
It was reported that the helicopter was flying to Northern Ireland, though police refused to comment on where it had taken off from or what its destination was.
Inspector Louis Provart said: ``Emergency services are working together in difficult conditions to secure the scene and carry out an initial investigation into the circumstances.
``Our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of those who have sadly lost their lives this evening.''
Emergency services were called by members of the public who heard a loud crash, though Mr Provart would not say whether there was an explosion and refused to speculate on the cause of the crash.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been informed and a team will be sent to investigate the crash, a spokesman said.
Three ambulances, two doctors and one rapid response car attended the scene, along with a police helicopter and fire services.
A spokeswoman for East of England Ambulance Service 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.''
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''.
One Twitter user, @andrew89mufc, said thick fog might have played a part in the crash, adding: ``Helicopter crashed very close to my house in Gillingham tonight. I heard it flying over the house.
``I live in Worlingham on Park Drive. My garden backs onto 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 though.''
He added: ``Can't see my hand in front of my face. No sign of scene of crash.''
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.''
Helen Roberts, a forecaster at the Met Office, confirmed that large parts of East Anglia had been hit by mist.
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.''
Norfolk Police said the crash site will remain cordoned off today while officers continue a forensic examination of the scene. Roads in the area have been closed.
06.45 - Norfolk Police Revised Road Closures
Police have released revised details on road closures in the Gillingham area as a result of the helicopter crash.
These closures will be in place throughout the morning rush hour and motorists who normally travel this way are advised to find alternative routes.
The following closures are in place:
A146 is closed at the Gillingham roundabout (McDonalds)
A146 Norwich Road is closed where it meets the junction with the A143, known as the Stockton roundabout
The junction of Rectory Road, Raveningham Road and Dog Lane is closed.
The A146 junction with Rectory Road is also closed, as is the Dog Lane junction with the A143.
The A143 junction with Hollow Way Hill is closed.
Diversions are in place from the Stockton roundabout, north on the A146 to Trowse, east on the A47 to Great Yarmouth, south on the A12 to Lowestoft, A1117 to the Oulton Broad, A146 to Beccles where the diversion ends at the Morrisons roundabout.
00.48 - Norfolk Police
Police can confirm four people have died following a helicopter crash in Gillingham, near Beccles.
Officers received a call at about 7.30pm from a member of the public who reported hearing the noise of a loud crash.
Further reports were received from members of the public regarding a loud crash in the area.
Police were deployed to the scene and began searching the area with assistance from the police helicopter and the crash site was located.
The crash site is in a field containing some wooded area and all four occupants on board the helicopter were pronounced dead at the scene.
Next of kin are currently being informed and no further details of the deceased will be released until this has been carried out.
Officers remain on scene and a cordon is in place while police investigators carry out initial enquiries and the Air Investigation Branch has been informed.
To assist with enquiries the exit from the Gillingham roundabout towards Great Yarmouth on the A143. The A143 is also closed at the junction with Hallow Way Hill and Rectory Road in Gillingham is also closed. Drivers are advised to avoid the area, local diversions are being put in place.
Inspector Louis Provart said: "Emergency services are working together in difficult conditions to secure the scene and carry out an initial investigation into the circumstances.
"Our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of those who have sadly lost their lives this evening.”
22.28 - Norfolk Police
Emergency services are continuing to deal with a helicopter crash in Gillingham near Beccles which happened earlier this evening.
Police were called at about 7.30pm which led to a search of the area resulting in the discovery of a crash site.
The helicopter has been confirmed as a civilian aircraft and the four occupants on board are thought to have died in the crash. Next of kin will be informed before further details of a deceased are released.
22.15 - Travel Update
A143 Yarmouth Road both ways closed due to incident involving an aircraft between A146 Norwich Road (McDonalds Roundabout) and Hollow Way Hill (Aldeby Waste Disposal Site).
22.13 - East of England Ambulance Service
The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) was called at 19:45 tonight (March 13) to reports of a helicopter crash near Gillingham, Norfolk.
EEAST sent a number of resources to the incident including two ambulance officers, three ambulances, two doctors and one rapid response car.
21.35 - Norfolk Police
Police are currently dealing with a helicopter crash in Gillingham, near Beccles.
Officers were called at about 7.30pm which led to a search of the area resulting in the discovery of the crash site.
Emergency services remain on scene and a police cordon is in place .