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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 14:07 GMT
Police helicopter crash 'miracle'
Crash site
The three men are "lucky to be alive"
Three men who were hurt when their police helicopter crashed in a field in Ayrshire had a "miraculous" escape, according to a farmer.

William Anderson, 59, was woken by the sound of the Strathclyde force's helicopter hitting the ground near Muirkirk at about 2200 on Sunday.

The three men on board have been named as Constable Kenneth Irvine, 35, from Hamilton, Constable Neil McIntosh, 40, from Bishopbriggs, and civilian pilot Alfonso Gasparro, 31, from Worcestershire.

Constable McIntosh is still in hospital with leg, shoulder and head injuries.

They could have hit the house or the wall or hit the power line

William Anderson
The pilot and other police officer, who suffered cuts and bruises and a minor head injury respectively, have been released from hospital.

Experts from the Air Accident Investigations Branch are at the scene of the crash, where wreckage has been strewn over a 50-yard area near power lines and the farm buildings where Mr Anderson lives.

Air accident investigators are due at the scene to begin an examination of the twin-engined Eurocopter EC-135.

Strathclyde assistant chief constable John McLean said a replacement aircraft would be in use immediately.

There was still no indication of why the helicopter came down. Initial reports said it had experienced a loss of power.

'Very, very lucky'

Mr McLean went on: "The helicopter was responding to calls that apparently a young child had been heard in this area.

"The scene shows how lucky those on board were and the accident could have been much worse."

Mr Anderson said one of the officers called for help after the helicopter came down.

The helicopter carried out search missions
He and his daughter Claire, 16, went to give assistance by shining their Land Rover headlights at the scene.

"I just think they were very lucky people to come out the way they did," Mr Anderson said.

"I just thought it was a miracle that anyone was alive. They could have hit the house or the wall or hit the power line.

"I think they are just very, very lucky to be here at all."

Claire Anderson said the man who came to the farm was "shocked and distressed".

"He didn't know where he was going, he just wanted to use the phone," she added.

Advanced model

The twin engined aircraft was hailed as the most advanced of its kind in Britain when it was unveiled almost 18 months ago.

The 2.5m Eurocopter 135 replaced a helicopter which had been in operation for 20 years.

It had been in service with the force since 2000 and was leased from Bond Helicopters.

The helicopter is fitted with state-of-the-art technology, including a digital camera and thermal imaging equipment.

It is the main aircraft for the force's Air Support Unit, which is based at the City Heliport on the River Clyde.

Primary role

The unit's core function is to carry out landward searches for missing and vulnerable people in rural and inaccessible areas.

The helicopter also monitors house-breakings, firearm containments, public disorder and vehicle crime incidents.

Last year the Air Support Unit carried out 1,519 flights for a total of 3,296 incidents, including 399 missing person searches.

  • In 1990, Sergeant Malcolm Herd was killed when a police Bell Jet 206 helicopter crashed in bad weather at Eastwood Toll, Newton Mearns, Glasgow.

BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
"The two men desperately tried to free their companion"
See also:

11 Jan 02 | Scotland
New rise in violent crime
09 Jan 01 | Scotland
New chief for Strathclyde force
07 Sep 00 | Scotland
Force's high-tech 'eye in the sky'
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