Four people have died after a US Air Force helicopter crashed at a nature reserve in Cley-next-the-Sea last night, investigations have started into what caused the crash.
Emergency services and military personnel remain at the scene, where a USAF Pave Hawk HH60 helicopter from RAF Lakenheath crashed at the north end of East Bank on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Marshes Nature Reserve at around 7pm yesterday evening.
Norfolk Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable, Sarah Hamlin, said: “I would like to pass on my condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of those US Air Force personnel who have sadly lost their lives in this tragic incident.
“Emergency services, the military, partner agencies and volunteers have been working through the night to deal with this difficult situation on our coastline and I would also like to thank them for their professionalism and resilience.”
She added: “As our inquiry moves on today and the recovery of the aircraft begins, I would urge the public to stay away from the area – the cordon and road closures are in place to allow our experts to carry out these processes safely and there is no risk to members of the public if this section of marshland is avoided.”
A second helicopter from RAF Lakenheath was also in the area at the time of the crash and set down on the marshes to try to assist, this was within the cordon and so this aircraft remains at the scene whilst inquiries are ongoing. It is not believed that anyone in the surrounding area was injured.
A 400m cordon remains around the crash site and the A149 remains closed through Cley with access to Beach Road and East Bank is also restricted and no coastline access to the crash site.
Investigators from the police and other partners have visited the crash site to assess the scene. Due to the geography and the munitions from the crashed helicopter, inquiries into the cause of the collision, the recovery of the wreckage and second aircraft and an environmental assessment are expected to take a number of days to complete.
To ensure the safety of people in the area and those involved in the ongoing inquiries, members of the public are asked to respect the cordons that are in place.
Chief Superintendent Bob Scully said: “In order to carry out a thorough investigation in a safe manner, the area will remain cordoned off with no access for the general public.
“We will be working with our partners at the Ministry of Defence, Air Accident Investigation Branch and US Air Force to gather all evidence from the scene and then recover the aircraft.”
He added: “This is difficult terrain with marshland and tides coupled with wreckage containing munitions covering a large area.
“We must undertake this investigation and recovery operation in a careful and methodical way so we can provide answers as to why this crash happened.
“For reasons of safety it is essential that members of the public adhere to the cordon. The popular activities of walking and bird-watching in this area will therefore be restricted until we have completed these tasks and ensured the marshes are safe.”