Tornado jet crash: One dead and two missing, feared dead

Station Commander Group Captain Ian Gale: "There is no expectation of recovering missing personnel alive"

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One of four air crew involved in a military jets crash in the Moray Firth has died and two others are feared dead, the RAF has said.

The Tornado GR4s from RAF Lossiemouth, in north east Scotland, came down south of Wick on Tuesday afternoon.

Two of the four involved were airlifted to hospital. The survivor was in a serious but stable condition in Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

The two others remain missing and the search for them has been called off.

RAF Lossiemouth station commander, Gp Capt Ian Gale, said an officer from 15 (Reserve) Sqd had died.

Stationed at Lossiemouth, the squadron is what is known as an operational conversion unit.

It trains pilots and weapon systems operators in flying Tornados, tactics and weapons.

Gp Capt Gale said: "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."

Gp Capt Gale added: "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 station commander said families involved were being kept informed of developments.

He added: "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."

Searches had been made for the two who remain missing but the Coastguard said the focus was now on recovery.

Crash fact file

Jonathan Tapper
  • The incident is one of the worst military tragedies in the UK in recent years
  • In 2009, Flt Lts Kenneth Thompson and Nigel Morton, died when their Tornado F3 crashed into a hillside near Arrochar, in Argyll
  • In 2007, three died when a Puma helicopter crashed at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. They were pilot, Flt Lt David Sale, 28, from Norton, near Stockton-on-Tees, crewman Sgt Phillip Burfoot, 27, from Cardiff, and Army recruit Pte Sean Tait, 17, from Glasgow, who was serving with the Royal Regiment of Scotland
  • Four died when their Royal Navy Lynx helicopter crashed off the Cornish coast in 2004. Lt Dave Cole, 34, from Dorset; Lt Rob Dunn, 29, from Dorset; Lt Jamie Mitchell, 29, from Dundee, and LAEM Richard Darnell, 31, from Torquay, were killed
  • In 2001, US pilots Lt Col Kenneth John Hyvonen and Cpt Kirk Jones were killed when their two F15C jets crashed near the summit of Ben Macdui in 2001
  • In 1994, a Chinook helicopter crashed on Mull of Kintyre, on the west coast of Scotland. All 29 onboard died, including pilots Jonathan Tapper, above, and Richard Cook
  • The RAF community in Moray was also united in grief in 2006 when a Nimrod aircraft from RAF Kinloss, along the coast from Lossiemouth, blew up over Afghanistan. Fourteen servicemen, most of them from RAF Kinloss, died

RAF personnel have boarded a vessel at Buckie harbour on the Moray coast.

The vessel, called Smit Yare, appeared to be preparing to leave port to take part in the salvage operation.

Wreckage from one of the aircraft was recovered by the Buckie lifeboat on Tuesday.

Police and the Coastguard have been patrolling shorelines and members of the public have been asked to report any other debris found.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron said the thoughts of MPs were with the families and friends of the air crew involved.

He said the circumstances of the incident remained uncertain and investigations were continuing.

Mr Cameron added that the incident was also a reminder of the risks military personnel took in training as well as active operations.

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, and Moray's MP Angus Robertson and MSP Richard Lochhead said their thoughts were with the families involved.

Mr Salmond said: "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."

A family member of a serving member of the RAF at Lossiemouth told the BBC of concerns among the families of personnel about the risk of crashes.

The person, who asked not to be named, said cutbacks, staff shortages and long working hours had put pressure on air and ground crews.

They said: "The reason that these crashes are happening is because everybody is undermanned, the engineers are overworked.

"The planes are too old. They can no longer fix them properly."

The family member added: "There's so much uncertainty. The guys are flying around with that in their heads and that is causing a massive amount of stress."

The Ministry of Defence said it was not known at this stage what had caused the crash.

A spokesman said: "A full investigation into this incident will carried out by the Military Aviation Authority, which will be an independent investigation looking at all the possibilities of what might have happened.

"Nobody can say if mechanical failure, human error, or weather conditions could have caused the incident when the investigation hasn't even begun."

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