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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 06:10 GMT 07:10 UK
Probe continues into Merlin crash
Crashed Merlin helicopter
The crash happened near the base's control tower
An investigation is continuing into the cause of a helicopter crash at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall on Tuesday.

Five Royal Navy airmen escaped serious injury when the aircraft crashed to the ground, seconds after takeoff on a training flight.

Two crew members were taken to hospital after the crash; one underwent surgery and the other was later released.

A team of Royal Navy accident investigators from RNAS Yeovilton is now looking into what caused the crash.

'Walking wounded'

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

The 30m anti-submarine aircraft, which belonged to 824 Squadron, had just taken off on a training flight.

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

The two injured men, both pilots, were airlifted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske.

The other three crew were described as "walking wounded".

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

The remaining Merlins at the base were not grounded, and the airfield has now been re-opened.

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 aircrew in search and rescue, weather forecasting and aircraft handling.

The BBC's David George
"The crash site at RNAS Culdrose is cordoned off and although the airfield is open there are no Merlin helicopters flying"

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