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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
Helicopter crashes at navy base
Crashed Merlin helicopter
The crash happened near the base's control tower
A helicopter has crashed at a Royal Navy base in Cornwall.

The incident happened at RNAS Culdrose, near Helston, at about 1500 BST on Tuesday when a Merlin helicopter hit the ground near the control tower.

Two men were trapped in the aircraft and later flown to hospital. Three other crewmen on board were also hurt in the incident.

The 60m anti-submarine aircraft, which belonged to 824 Squadron, had just taken off on a training flight.

Two civilian fire engines were sent to the base but were not required. Civilian ambulances were also called to assist navy paramedics.

'Walking wounded'

The main road from Helston to the Lizard was closed as a precaution for an hour.

The airlifted men, both pilots, were taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske. One had facial injuries, the other suffered leg injuries.

The pilot with facial injuries was later released. His colleague had to undergo surgery.

The aircraft had just lifted into a hover when the pilot experienced control difficulties
Captain Mike Knowles
Base commander
The three other crewmen, who were in the rear of the aircraft, were described as "walking wounded".

The aircraft was severely damaged. The rotor blades came off in the crash and bits of wreckage were strewn across the area.

Teams of personnel swept the base's perimeter looking for debris and a crash investigation team from RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset is to look into what happened.

Base commander Captain Mike Knowles said: "The weather was good, so we can probably rule that out, even at this early stage.

"The aircraft had just lifted into a hover when the pilot experienced control difficulties.

Airfield closed

"The Merlin actually has a very good track record. I think we need to wait and find what the investigation team has to say about this."

The remaining Merlins at the base have not been grounded, but the airfield has been closed.

The 22.8 metre-long aircraft has a rotor diameter of 18.6 metres, weighs 14,600 kilograms and has an anticipated service life of 35 to 40 years.

RNAS Culdrose is responsible for training helicopter pilots, observers and aircrewmen in search and rescue, weather forecasting and aircraft handling.




SEE ALSO:
Garden tribute paid to air crew
22 Mar 04  |  Cornwall
Culdrose crash questions remain
06 Feb 04  |  Cornwall


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