Surfers shocked as chopper crash-lands

An British Army helicopter came down on a crowded beach in County Antrim on Saturday after a suspected engine fire.

No-one was injured when the Lynx chopper descended wildly onto Portrush beach where people had gathered for the Irish Surfing Championships.

Smoke billowed from the back as the helicopter circled above the sea before it made what was described by British officials as an ``emergency landing''.

Surfers said it was only good fortune that the helicopter missed the crowds gathered for the competition.

``It dropped in a matter of seconds on to the beach and it didn't crash, but it wasn't controlled,'' said one observer. ``There was smoke streaming out at the back of the tail of it. The pilots got out sharpish.''

In the past number of years there has been a number of incidents were British military helicopters have crash landed. Recently two members of the Crown forces died in a crash outside Derry.

A British Army spokesman said the Lynx helicopter was returning from Ballykelly British Army base to Aldergrove on a routine flight when the engine caught fire.

The spokesman said a clean-up operation would take several hours to complete.

There are over 100 British Army Lynxes operating across the world. It is mainly used for transporting troops and equipment in the Six Counties despite an appalling safety record.

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy has called on all British Crown Force helicopters in the Six counties to be grounded following the incident.

``In South Armagh this type of helicopter flies over homes, schools and shops on a 24 hour basis,'' he said. ``There are clearly serious health and safety issues.

``Ten years into a peace process the British military have no justification for the continuation of military flights in the six counties and this is particularly the case given the pathetic safety record of their aircraft.''

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