Community reeling as Gillingham helicopter crash is second tragedy in three weeks

Revd Julie Oddy-Bates take the service at Kirby Cane church where 4 candles were lit to remember tho

Revd Julie Oddy-Bates take the service at Kirby Cane church where 4 candles were lit to remember those who died in the Gillingham helicopter crash.Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The close-knit community affected by the fatal helicopter crash at Gillingham is this week coming to terms with the second tragedy to hit the area in less than three weeks.

Candles were lit and a prayer was said for the four men who died in last Thursday's crash during the Holy Communion service at All Saints' Church in Kirby Cane yesterday.

The AgustaWestland AW139 crashed in a field off the A143 Yarmouth Road, near Beccles, in heavy fog.

It was taking off from Gillingham Hall, home of Edward Haughey, Lord Ballyedmond, who died in the crash.

The other victims were Declan Small, a site foreman for Lord Ballyedmond's company, and pilots Carl Dickerson and Lee Hoyle.

The tragedy came less than three weeks after the death of 17-year-old Allister Maguire Buck, who was killed when he was struck by a car on the A146 at Stockton on February 22.

Mr Maguire Buck's funeral was held on Friday as emergency services were attempting to make sense of the helicopter crash site.

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The Rev Julie Oddy-Bates, priest in charge of the Waveney benefice, which includes Gillingham, Stockton, Kirby Cane, Ellingham and Geldeston, said the congregation was still reeling from the events of the last few weeks.

The small rural communities are within a few miles of each other and close to the sites of the two fatal incidents.

Mrs Oddy-Bates said, although the men involved in the helicopter crash were not well known locally, it was a huge shock for such a small community.

'I think the biggest thing is having two tragedies in three weeks and so close together,' said Mrs Oddy-Bates.

'Allister's accident took place about a mile away from the helicopter crash. People are reeling and asking why. That's why it is really important to bring them together in prayer so they can support each other.'

Mrs Oddy-Bates led the congregation in the tribute before the service on Sunday.

A Gillingham parishioner lit a candle for each of the four crash victims as their names were read out.

The tribute concluded with a prayer for the families and friends of the men that had died.

Mrs Oddy-Bates said: 'It is something we often do.

'The light of the candles is symbolic of Christ being the light of the world and light in darkness, and it has been a very dark time for people.'