Page last updated at 18:39 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 19:39 UK

Two dead in Army helicopter crash

Squirrel helicopter
The Squirrel is used to train pilots in all three of the UK's armed services

Two people have died after an Army helicopter crashed in Devon.

The Squirrel helicopter came down in dense woodland near Kingscott, Torrington, at 1545 BST. Next of kin have been informed.

One crew member was pronounced dead at the scene. The other was flown to North Devon District Hospital but died later from his injuries.

An eyewitness told BBC News the training helicopter hit power lines before crashing.

It is believed the helicopter was taking part in a routine low-flying training exercise.

'Blue flash'

Devon and Cornwall Police sealed off the crash site for an army investigation unit which has arrived and will lead the inquiry.

Local farmer Paul Herniman said two helicopters were operating closely together when one appeared to hit a power line. He said that was followed by a loud noise.

"It was like a gun going off," he told BBC News.

Other eyewitnesses have reported seeing "a great blue flash".

Map of Devon

An MoD spokesperson said: "Sadly, we can confirm that both service personnel on board have died. Our thoughts are with their families and friends at this difficult time.

"The next of kin are currently being informed. We will confirm further details once this process has been completed."

Wreckage from the helicopter has been found some distance from the crash site.

About 12,000 homes in the area lost electricity supplies at about the time of the accident, although it is not known if this was linked to the crash.

Western Power Distribution said the crash caused damage to a 33,000 volt line and an 11,000 volt line.

Fire risk

Power was restored within seven minutes but 24 homes were not reconnected.

This was at the request of investigating teams because of the fire from fuel spillage.

An RAF rescue helicopter from RMB Chivenor and a Portland Coastguard helicopter were scrambled following the crash and Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue sent crews to the scene.

Roads close to the crash site have been closed and a two nautical mile air exclusion zone put in place.

There have been other fatal crashes involving the French-made Squirrel helicopter, including one which killed the former world rally champion Colin McRae in September 2007.

In January of the same year, two RAF Squirrels crashed in Shropshire killing a flying instructor and injuring three other people.

The two-seat training helicopter, brought into service in the mid 1990s, is used to instruct pilots from all three armed services in the UK.

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Debris from the helicopter is scattered in woodland at the crash site




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