Three feared dead in Scottish RAF Tornado crash


One member of air crew has died and two others remain unaccounted for after two Tornado jets crashed off the coast of Scotland yesterday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The man who died was an officer from 15 (Reserve) Squadron, based at RAF Lossiemouth in Moray.

A fourth crew member is in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

There is "no expectation" of recovering the missing people alive, Group Captain Ian Gale, the station commander at the RAF base, said.

The name of the officer who died has not yet been released.

Mr Gale said today's decision not to resume the search and rescue operation for the missing crew was due to "extremely poor" weather conditions in the area.

The recovery operation will resume as soon as possible.

Mr Gale said the incident will be subject to a full investigation.

He said in a statement: "Following the incident involving two of our Tornado GR4 aircraft in the Moray Firth yesterday, it is with great sadness that I must confirm the death of one of the crew members, an officer from 15 (Reserve) Squadron, based here at RAF Lossiemouth.

"A second crew member remains under medical care, where he is in a serious but stable condition.

"Two additional personnel remain unaccounted for. Due to extremely poor weather conditions in the area, the RAF and Her Majesty's Coastguard have made a joint decision not to resume search and rescue operations.

"The operation will be resumed as a recovery operation as soon as possible, but we must be realistic: given the length of time that has elapsed since the accident, there is no expectation of recovering missing personnel alive.

"The Royal Air Force is in contact with the next of kin of all those involved. As I am sure you will understand, they have asked for a period of time to take in the news and inform extended family members before further details are released. The Royal Air Force intend to respect this and I would ask the media to do likewise.

"Clearly, this incident will be subject to full investigation, and a service inquiry will be led by the Military Aviation Authority. It is important that we establish the facts of what happened and it is vital that the investigation is allowed to take its course. But the priority now is to ensure that the families of those involved receive the support they need at this most difficult of times."

The RAF ensign at the entrance to the Lossiemouth base was lowered to half-mast this afternoon.

There have been no flights in and out of the base today.

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to the personnel involved in the crash.

He said: "Our thoughts should be with the friends, family and colleagues of those involved.

"The circumstances still remain uncertain but it's clearly a very serious incident.

"The investigation is ongoing and more details will be released by the RAF in due course."

The Tornado GR4s came down in the Moray Firth yesterday afternoon.

Aberdeen Coastguard contacted the RNLI for assistance at about 1.50pm after reports that the jets had come down 25 miles (40km) south of Wick.

About 15 lifeboat volunteers joined the rescue operation in boats from Wick, Invergordon and Buckie.

The boats headed for the Beatrice oil field area supported by a helicopter from Stornoway in the Western Isles.

Wreckage seen being brought ashore by Buckie lifeboats last night included a liquid oxygen canister and a flying glove.

Crew from the Buckie boat reported that two people were taken from the sea by helicopter and flown to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The search for the remaining people was stood down last night as bad weather hampered the rescue effort.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency later said the search-and-rescue element of the response has been "terminated" and the mission moved into a recovery phase.

A spokesman said they were continuing to offer assistance to the Ministry of Defence.

Richard Lochhead, the MSP for Moray, said the whole community was in shock and the crash was a tragedy.

He said: "Given that thousands of people in the area work at the base, everyone has a connection with it and everyone will be thinking about the families of crews who have been involved in this incident and their friends and colleagues that work at RAF Lossiemouth.

"Clearly, when an incident like this happens, people are very shocked and begin to ask questions.

"But the pilots are training in very extreme circumstances, it's a very high-risk job flying fast jets and training for conflict.

"This is a very serious incident and people will ask questions, that's only natural, but now's not the time to speculate on the cause of this incident. There will be an investigation, of course, and we will have to wait for that.

"People who have questions should ask them and they should be answered.

"When a tragedy like this happens on such a huge scale it still causes a huge shock and people are now thinking of the crews and their friends and families at this difficult time."

In January last year, two RAF crew were rescued after their Tornado GR4 jet came down in the sea off the west coast of Scotland.

The crew, from RAF Lossiemouth, ejected from the plane before it landed in the water at Loch Ewe near Gairloch, Wester Ross.

RAF Lossiemouth, on the Moray Firth coast, is home to three squadrons of Tornado GR4s.

The Tornado GR4 is a two-seat attack aircraft capable of delivering a variety of weapons and reaching a maximum altitude of 50,000ft (15,240m).

In July 2009, an RAF pilot and navigator were killed when their Tornado jet crash into a hillside in Argyll.

Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Thompson, 27, and Flight Lieutenant Nigel Morton, 43, died in the crash near the village of Arrochar.

The aircraft was an RAF Leuchars-based Tornado F3 on a routine flight.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: "This is tragic news and my sincere sympathy is with those loved ones who have been bereaved, and indeed all those affected.

"RAF Lossiemouth is at the heart of the community in Moray and I know how deeply and painfully this will touch not just the personnel and families directly connected with the base, but the whole region.

"The rescue services have worked incredibly hard in the hope of a different outcome and the Scottish Government remains ready to help in any way we can with the next phase of this operation."

Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran said: "This is an extremely distressing development and my heart goes out to the families and friends of those involved.

"Those heroes who serve their country take extraordinary risks, both in training and in combat, and all our thoughts are with them at this difficult and tragic time."

Scottish Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon said: "This is a tragic incident even with all the risks known to these airmen.

"Our thoughts are with the families at this time of unexpected tragedy.

"Moray felt the loss of the Nimrod crew over Afghanistan in 2006 - an event that stunned the community.

"This event closer to the airbase is a heartfelt tragedy for all the families.

"I trust that a full and thorough investigation will take place in order to establish the cause of the accident."


On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment

Life and Style

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Architect - Surrey - £35k-£45k DOE - Permanent

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Infrastructure / Network Engineer (VMware, Windows, LAN/WAN)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Primary teaching jobs in Thetford

£1036224 - £1513056 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Educatio...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week