Newlywed Britons killed as helicopter crashes in Spain

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The Independent Online

A bride and groom were killed in a helicopter crash in southern Spain as they travelled to their wedding reception. Jeanette Hodgson, 40, and Michael Gregory, 37, died when the aircraft came down in the mountainous area of Istan, near Malaga.

The couple, who had two children, a girl aged two and a five-year-old boy, had booked the flight over the picturesque coastline of the Costa del Sol as the highlight of the ceremony. They hired the private helicopter to go sightseeing after marrying in the village of Nerja on Monday morning and were due to arrive at the El Oceano hotel a few hours later - where about 20 close friends and family were waiting.

But the couple, who had a home in Marbella, never arrived. The guests dispersed in tears and, instead of celebrating the wedding, were yesterday preparing for funerals.

Visibility was fine but strong winds put the small Robinson R44 helicopter into difficulties.

A search discovered it on a mountainside about 30 miles from their destination.

Mr Gregory, from Leicester, who ran his own business, Dura-Sport, and the pilot, are believed to have died instantly. The bride, a company secretary originally from Essex, who had three children from a previous relationship, and the co-pilot, were found alive.

Emergency services took hours to reach the scene, three miles from the nearest road, and Ms Hodgson died as she was being taken off the mountain.

The pilot, Salvador Alarcon, 65, is believed to have sent out a mayday shortly before the crash. Hermann Rich, the co-pilot and only survivor, was taken by air to the Clinic of Malaga hospital where he was recovering yesterday.

Jose Carmona, the reception manager, said police arrived and told them what had happened. He said: "It's incredible - a day that should be a day of joy and happiness for everybody has turned into a tragedy.

"All the guests were here by 3pm waiting for the couple to come. They got more and more nervous, looking around at one another and somehow they had a very bad feeling, which was confirmed."

The Foreign Office confirmed the names of the couple and said the British Consulate was providing appropriate assistance to the families of the victims. The mayor of Istan, Salvador Osorio, told a local newspaper the helicopter crashed after apparently going out of control while trying to land.

Rescue teams decided it was too dangerous to remove the bodies in the dusk so police stood by them overnight before removing them yesterday.

At the Oceano Beach Hotel the guests dressed in morning suits had been becoming increasingly concerned.

The couple had arrived in Gibraltar on Sunday night and booked into the Elliott Hotel just off Main Street in the urban centre of Gibraltar before embarking on their fatal trip.