A MAJOR investigation was under way today after a helicopter which began its journey in West Lothian crashed into the sea killing both men on board.
The aircraft plunged into the water after a failed attempt to land at Flamborough Head golf course in East Yorkshire.
The bodies of two men on board the privately chartered helicopter, which took off in Dechmont and was due to land for refuelling at Humberside Airport before flying to Nottinghamshire, were later recovered from the scene.
The victims have not yet been named although it was reported they had spent the Monday night at the Bankhead Farm Bed and Breakfast in Dechmont.
A man at the farm was quoted as saying: “We knew them quite well. We’re really gutted.”
Witnesses reported hearing a “loud crack” before the helicopter, a Bell JetRanger, went down at 1.40pm yesterday.
The crash sparked a major emergency services operation in which a coastguard crew member was winched down to the wreckage by helicopter.
Golfers at the course said they thought the helicopter had been trying to land near the club’s 17th green.
Course chairman Rod Marwood, one of many people who watched in horror, believes the pilot may have tried to make an emergency landing after suffering problems in the air.
He said: “The engine noise changed. It looked as if it was banking to try to get towards the cliff but he was about 500 metres away.
“All of a sudden it disappeared below the edge of the cliff and it didn’t reappear. It flew into the cliff.
“There was a thump but no big fireball or explosion. There was a real smell of aviation fuel.”
Another witness Chris Palmer, 33, a builder from Dunswell, East Yorkshire, said he heard a “loud crack” when the helicopter was flying along the coastline and saw it descend “like a plane and go behind the cliffs”.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) will now lead an investigation into what happened after a team arrived on the scene yesterday.
The helicopter, which plunged into shallow water at the base of the cliff, was expected to be recovered today. Humberside Police said the crash site was potentially unsafe due to dangerous cliff edges and aviation fuel in the water.
Video footage of a lifeboat crew battling high seas in an attempt to reach the fatal helicopter crash has been released by the RNLI.
Crew member Cole Ibbotson said: “‘We could see the wreckage of the helicopter at the bottom of the cliff and could see where it had hit. We are all devastated that this service didn’t have a positive outcome and that we couldn’t help the people on board the helicopter.
Our thoughts and sympathy are very much with their family and friends.”firstname.lastname@example.org