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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Navy officers feared dead
Lynx helicopter
One crew member was rescued from the Lynx
The families of two Royal Navy flyers feared dead after their helicopter crashed off the US coast are being supported by Ministry of Defence welfare staff, it has been announced.

Pilot Lieutenant Rod Skidmore, 39, a married father-of-two, and his observer Lieutenant Jenny Lewis, 25, who is single, have not yet been found.

The pair were returning from an exercise and heading for Royal Navy warship HMS Richmond when the aircraft went down about 200 miles off the coast of Virginia.

The helicopter was from the Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton, Somerset.


Obviously this is a very sad time for the families and they need time to come to terms with what has happened

MoD spokeswoman

The Ministry of Defence confirmed a third crew member, who suffered minor injuries was rescued.

A spokeswoman said: "Sadly we believe they have died in the accident."

"Obviously this is a very sad time for the families and they need time to come to terms with what has happened," said a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence.

'Search called off'

"Naval personnel family services officers, people from the squadron and padres will be available should the family need them at their homes."

The relatives were told of the accident late on Wednesday night by military staff.

A joint US/UK search operation to try to recover the missing crew members was launched, but has since been called off.

Commander John Kirby, a spokesman for the US Navy's Second Fleet, told the BBC: "The search was called off at sunset in the US and we do not plan to resume the search."

'Mechanical difficulty'

Commander Kirby said a memorial service will be held aboard HMS Richmond on Thursday.

"The crew is saddened as are those in the US Navy ," he said.

The third crew member was in a stable condition and "still being cared for", he said.

Commander Kirby said early indications were that the crash was caused by "some sort of mechanical difficulty".

The spokesman said the British Royal Navy was expected to investigate the incident.

Two years ago most of the Royal Navy's Lynx helicopters were grounded when rotor head problems came to light.

But the Ministry of Defence said there was reason to believe the rotor head was not the cause of the crash.

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