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Witnesses say they heard a loud and slow sound

People living in the village of Gillingham have been speaking about the moment a helicopter crashed, killing four men onboard, including millionaire peer Lord Ballyedmond.

Today air accident investigators are examining the wreckage and crash site.

The helicopter in question was often used to ferry workers over to the hall, they were staying here as residents as well. They were doing all kinds of work up there, carpet fitting, decorating, general stuff.

– Joe London, Manager at Gillingham Swan

It made us open the back door because the sound was so loud and slow, but it was gone 8 o'clock. Really loud, not like the usual helicopters you hear and you couldn't really see because it was so foggy.

– Local eye witness

41-year-old James Tuttle who lives in nearby Geldeston saw the helicopter come down.

We used to see him coming and going in his helicopter from our back garden all the time. At about 7pm we noticed the helicopter coming in very low and at an unusual 45-degree angle. We didn't hear any bang or explosion, it just seemed to be flying in a strange way. The fog wasn't bad at the time, just patchy, it only got worse about an hour after the crash happened.

– James Tuttle, eye witness


Helicopter crash site is not far from Norwich to Lowestoft road

Wreckage from the Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter at Gillingham Credit: ITV News Anglia

As the fog lifts around Gillingham near Beccles, the crash site can be seen from the Norwich to Lowestoft Road, the A146.

Air accident investigators are at the scene of the crash, examining the area.

The helicopter came down in the field close to the well known McDonalds roundabout.

A police cordon remains in place around the scene Credit: ITV News Anglia
Emergency services at the crash site Credit: ITV News Anglia
Crash site close to the A146 Norwich to Lowestoft road Credit: ITV News Anglia

Helicopter wreckage can now be seen as fog lifts

Close up of the helicopter wreckage at Gillingham, Norfolk Credit: ITN

Wreckage of the Agusta Westland AW139 helicopter which came down at Gillingham close to the Norfolk and Suffolk border.

Norfolk police were only able to carry out a limited search last night because of thick fog in the area.

More detailed forensic investigations will be carried out today as Air investigators examine the scene.


Tributes to millionaire peer who died in Helicopter crash

Lord Ballyedmond Credit: UTV

Tributes have been coming in to the Northern Irish Conservative peer Lord Ballyedmond who died in the helicopter crash at Gillingham last night.

Stormont Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster, said. "Without doubt, Lord Ballyedmond was one of Northern Ireland's most successful entrepreneurs.

"He was known for his leadership, integrity and global vision. One of a kind and a self made businessman, he was both highly regarded and widely respected by all those who knew him."

Investigation will start with focus on helicopter pilot

An Agusta Westland AW139 Credit: PA

The helicopter involved in last night's accident was an Agusta Westland AW139 but exactly what journey was involved is still to be determined.

What will emerge from the investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) team will be the type of flying qualification held by the pilot.

Many helicopter pilots are permitted to fly only in good-visibility conditions during the day, with others being permitted to fly at night in good conditions.

Some pilots are qualified to fly using visual-aid instruments so that they are able to take to the skies when there is cloud, or poor visibility.

David Learmount, operations and safety editor of Flight Global said:

"Helicopter flying is usually done under clear-visual conditions. Helicopters are much more difficult to fly than aeroplanes and much more difficult to fly on instruments than planes.

"You have to be particularly careful if fog is around. It's a hell of a hazard."

The AAIB will also want to know if there was any communication from the helicopter before or during the flight.

If the helicopter had taken off from a private helipad in good conditions, then the pilot would not have needed any permission to get airborne.

Mr Learmount said the Norfolk accident had echoes of the helicopter crash in south London last year when experienced pilot Pete Barnes, 50, was killed when his aircraft clipped a high-rise crane in Vauxhall.

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