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Gillingham tries to come to terms with helicopter tragedy

PUBLISHED: 10:28 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:28 14 March 2014

Police block off the A146 at Gillingham due to the helicopter crash.

Police block off the A146 at Gillingham due to the helicopter crash.

People in the Gillingham area were today trying to come to terms today with the tragedy in their midst which claimed four lives.

The four victims were on board a helicopter which crashed at about 7.30pm on Thursday close to Gillingham Hall.

Lord Ballyedmond, who owns Gillingham Hall, has been confirmed as one of the victims while media in Northern Ireland have reported that Declan Small, 42, a foreman who worked for Lord Ballyedmond was nother of the men who died in last night’s crash. He came from Mayobridge, Co Down.

John Lowrey, a lay reader with the group of churches in the Gillingham area, said the whole community was in a state of shock.

He said: “Gilingham Hall and St Mary’s Church at Gillingham share a boundary and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of those who were killed.

“Although the family from the hall never attended church services in the area they were good neighbours and we all feel for them.”

Mr Lowrey was speaking on behalf of the Rev Julie Oddy-Bates who is on annual leave.

Ms Bates will be back in the area on Sunday to take a service at nearby Kirby Cane where special prayers for the victims will be said.

The church at Gillingham is only used on special occasions like weddings or funerals and not for regular services.

Mr Lowrey, of Ellingham, said he knew that the family at Gillingham Hall arrived by helicopter on a regular basis.

“We often heard a helicopter land or take off from the parkland which is part of the hall’s estate,” said Mr Lowrey.

Lord Ballyedmond and his family had been carrying out major improvements to the hall.

Julia Punt, is parish clerk at Gillingham Parish Council and led tributes to the victims on behalf of local residents.

“We would like to say that everyone in the village is shocked and saddened by last night’s events.

“Our prayers are with the families of all those involved.”

Mrs Punt said she was shocked that such a terrible accident could happen in the village.

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