Nine crew feared dead after Hercules crash

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NINE RAF personnel were feared dead last night after a Hercules cargo aircraft crashed near the edge of the Grampian mountains in Perthshire, writes James Cusick.

The RAF said last night that the bodies of five crew had been found and the search for the remaining four would resume at first light today.

Wreckage was strewn over the crash site, 10 miles north-east of the village of Blair Atholl. Parts of the hillside seen by an RAF rescue helicopter were reported to be on fire. Aircrew said the only part of the aircraft intact was the tail.

Rescue teams were alerted after a hill walker reported hearing the crash shortly after 4pm.

Alasdair Keillor, a local gamekeeper, said he heard an explosion and saw flames in the sky. 'I could hear the noise of the plane and all of a sudden it stopped and there was (a sound) like an explosion,' he told BBC television. 'When I got to the skyline to look, all I could see was a cloud of smoke and flames going into the air.'

The Hercules was on a training flight from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire to RAF Lossiemouth. It is believed the aircraft was involved in a low-flying drill. Low-flying exercises are a routine part of Hercules pilots' training. Dropping cargo such as relief supplies from as low as 200 feet is one of the manoeuvres practised.

Four helicopters, three from the RAF and one from the Royal Navy, and an RAF Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft searched for survivors into the night.

Three helicopters ferried mountain rescue teams from RAF Kinloss and Leuchars.

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