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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Basra crash victims brought home
A coffin draped in the Union flag is carried across the airfield
A plane carrying the coffins landed at RAF Brize Norton on Thursday
A ceremony has been held to mark the repatriation of five military personnel killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq.

A plane carrying their coffins landed at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, at 1100 BST on Thursday.

Among the dead was Flight Lieutenant Sarah Mulvihill, from Canterbury in Kent, the first British woman to be killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

Three of the other four servicemen were from the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton in Somerset.

There was a brief sunset ceremony in Iraq attended by the Chief of Defence Staff and the Secretary of State for Defence before the bodies were loaded onto the plane for their journey home.

'Selfless commitment'

The ceremony at RAF Brize Norton was attended by the Duchess of Gloucester and Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram.

Mr Ingam said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed in this tragic incident.

"We must never forget the sacrifice made by our Armed Forces to help the Iraqi Government build a stable and secure country, and to protect our national interests.

"Their selfless commitment and dedication is an inspiration to us all."

They were all exceptional individuals who have left a lasting legacy
Commodore Tony Johnstone-Burt

Commodore Tony Johnstone-Burt, Deputy Commander of Joint Helicopter Command, said: "They were all exceptional individuals who have left a lasting legacy with all those fortunate enough to have known them.

"I am confident that their sacrifice in the line of duty has stiffened the resolve of all those on operations, regardless of their rank or rate, and made them even more determined to live up to their memory and finish the job that they have started."

Flt Lt Mulvihill was based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire with Wing Commander Coxen, 46, the most senior British officer to be killed in Iraq.

Flt Lt Sarah Mulvihill's husband Lee, a sergeant in the RAF, watched as the body of his "best friend" was transferred from an aircraft to a waiting hearse.

"Sarah was my best friend and my most beloved wife," he said

"She was also an adored daughter and sister, highly-loved and respected by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.

"Her love of sport and outdoor activities was only outshone by her commitment to the Royal Air Force, of which she and I are extremely proud to be a part.

"Her loss has greatly affected and impacted on more people than anyone can comprehend."

The Yeovilton airmen were Lt Cdr Darren Chapman, 40, Capt David Dobson, 27, and Marine Paul Collins, 21.

The cause of the helicopter crash on 6 May is under investigation, but it is thought the Lynx aircraft may have been brought down by small arms fire or a rocket strike.

Hear about the five personnel who died

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