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Video: Prime Minister pays tribute to ‘good friend’ who died in Gillingham helicopter crash

The scene of the helicopter crash at Gillingham. Picture: Nick Butcher

The scene of the helicopter crash at Gillingham. Picture: Nick Butcher

Police have formally named three of the four men killed when a helicopter crashed in Norfolk.

Prime Minister David Cameron tonight paid tribute to 70-year-old Lord Ballyedmond - Edward Haughey - who owns Gillingham Hall who died in the crash.

Mr Cameron said: “Lord Ballyedmond was a towering figure in Northern Irish business life, and passionate about peace and good relations north and south, east and west. He was a larger than life figure who was a great supporter of the Conservative party and a good friend to me.”

Police this evening named three of the four victims of a helicopter crash that took place in Gillingham, near Beccles yesterday evening.

Officers received a call at about 7.30pm from a member of the public who reported hearing the noise of a loud crash. The helicopter has been confirmed as an AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter which had been taking off from nearby Gillingham Hall.

The three deceased, who have been named by police, subject to formal identification procedures, are Edward Haughey, Lord Ballyedmond, from Northern Ireland, Declan Small, 42, from Northern Ireland and Carl Dickerson from the Lancashire area. The fourth man has also not been formally identified but next of kin are aware.

Following examination of the crash site, detectives with specialist skills from the Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team are satisfied that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has now taken over primacy of the investigation of the scene and will continue with their detailed enquiries into the cause of the crash.

Emergency services will be present at the site during the weekend as further work takes place including searches.

Silver commander Supt Dave Marshall said: “Police, fire officers and AAIB investigators have worked tirelessly throughout the day to enable the recovery of the deceased from the site and this happened late this afternoon. We are now satisfied that primacy for the investigation can sit with the AAIB.

“Roads around the site will be re-opened in the next hour or so. The only road that will remain closed is Raveningham Road between Rectory Road and A143. We would like to thank motorists and local residents who have been affected by this for their patience.”

It is believed Carl Dickerson was a chief pilot at Haughey Air, a company owned by Lord Ballyedmond and Lee Hoyle, who is believed to be the fourth victim was a co-pilot at the company.

Police received a call at about 7.30pm last night from a member of the public who reported hearing the noise of a loud crash off the A143.

Police said the crash scene is a “considerable area” of around 150-200 square metres, and confirmed the scene included fields and part of the A143 east of the Gillingham roundabout.

There remains a significant cordon around the site, which police said is “standard practice for this type of incident” while investigations are carried out.

Police confirmed debris has been found on the road and so a number of closures remain in place so the area can be searched. This is being prioritised so that roads may be reopened as soon as possible to minimise disruption to local people.

The police, on behalf of HM Coroner, are working with partners, including the Air Accident Investigation Branch, to investigate what happened.

Close examinations of the scene are taking place at the moment, including support from forensic officers.

Detectives with specialist skills from the Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team are leading the investigation to support the Coroner, while local officers maintain the cordons and manage traffic.

Police urged the public to understand the situation and to have sympathy with the needs of the families of the deceased. They urged them to respect the cordons that are in place.

Lord Ballyedmond is Northern Ireland’s richest man, with a personal wealth estimated at more than £500m. He is the owner of Norbrook Laboratories, a veterinary pharmaceutical company. The firm was reportedly lending assistance to the investigation.

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