Up to four feared dead in mid-air crash

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Up to four people were feared dead in a mid-air collision near a nature reserve today.

The two light aircraft crashed over Porthcawl, South Wales, just before 11am. At least one of them is from the RAF.

The crash site, near Kenfig Nature Reserve, is less than a mile from the M4 motorway and a mainline railway line.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was responding to reports of the crash but could not say where the aircraft were from.

A South Wales Police spokesman said: "At the moment, we cannot confirm a specific number, but there have been fatalities.

"We are trying to contact the next of kin."

Clive Langdon, speaking from the nearby Prince of Wales pub, said: "Apparently they have found two bodies and they are looking for two more, from what I can gather.

"I've heard they were trainees from RAF St Athan."

An MOD spokesman was unable to confirm if trainees were involved.

He said: "At this stage, we cannot confirm the type of aircraft involved or where they may have come from.

"Two rescue helicopters were scrambled, along with the South Wales Police Air Support Unit.

"The two rescue helicopters are a Sea King from RAF Chivenor in Devon and the Coastguard helicopter from Portland.

"Civilian police, fire and ambulance services are also in attendance."

Jeff Tildesley, deputy mayor of Bridgend Council, said he understood that the two aircraft had clipped each other's wings before crashing near sand dunes.

Gareth Maund, the landlord of the Prince of Wales pub, said: "It happened very close.

"I didn't see it but it was apparently right above us.

"What people are saying is that there was a loud bang and they saw one aeroplane spinning to the ground but there are two aeroplanes involved."

He added: "The fire brigade extinguished some of the flames and the other plane carried on for another mile and came down towards Margam.

"They have found that plane now as well."

Mr Maund said he had heard that debris from the crash showered to the ground close to where staff at the Kenfig Nature Reserve were working.

"It is not something that happens every day and it has shocked a lot of people here," he said.

"There were some people working at the reserve, cutting trees down, and they witnessed it.

"The debris landed 100 yards from them."

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said a team was travelling to the crash site.

Madeleine Moon, Labour MP for Bridgend, said: "My heart goes out to the families of those who lost loved ones today in this tragic accident."

A Cardiff International Airport spokeswoman confirmed neither plane had departed from, or was arriving at, the airport.

South Wales Police has set up an emergency helpline for people concerned relatives may have been involved in the crash.

The casualty bureau can be contacted on 0800 096 1011.

A joint investigation by police and the AAIB has been launched.

Bridgend Superintendent Tim Jones said: "A full investigation is ongoing to establish the circumstances of this tragic incident.

"Both aircrafts have landed in different areas of the sand dunes near to Kenfig Hill Nature Reserve, Porthcawl.

"We cannot at this stage confirm further details of the aircraft involved or details of any the aircrafts' occupants.

"A cordon has been established and officers are at the scene."

Wreckage from the aircrafts is thought to have been spread across a large area.

The force urged members of the public to avoid the site and to leave debris in place for police to recover.

Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact their local police station.

Mark Rae, the professional golfer at the Grove Golf club in Porthcawl, said several members reported hearing a loud bang while they were playing this morning.

"People from the golf club heard it and were alarmed," said Mr Rae.

"As I looked out of a window I saw black smoke coming from the direction of the Port Talbot steelworks.

"I thought there was an explosion at the steelworks but then I saw the police helicopter, an RAF helicopter and a helicopter from the coastguard flying overhead.

"People at the golf club were wondering what was going on."

He added: "We haven't had any golfers coming in to say they had seen an explosion. They just said they had heard it.

"Some people came in that live near the wreckage to say there was debris from the planes scattered all over the place."