RAF Lakenheath’s surrounding communities were today coming to terms with last night’s tragic helicopter accident.

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Many in the towns of Brandon and Mildenhall, and the village of Lakenheath, woke up to the news this morning that four men had died in the incident in Cley, with the shock still apparent this morning.

Base employees are an established part of the local area, with more than 5,000 living off base as recently as 2012.

Stephen Edwards, acting chairman of Brandon, said the effects would be felt strongly locally as base staff were so much a part of the community.

“It’s an absolute tragedy and our sympathies go out to those involved.

“The base is very much an integral part of this town and I am sure this will be keenly felt by local people,” he said.

Photo gallery: Military probe at site of Cley helicopter crash

James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council, said he had woken up to the news this morning and had been “stunned”.

“The base is such a massive part of where we are and when this kind of thing happens it makes you realise how those men and women, who live in our communities, put themselves at risk so often for our safety.

“Both bases, Lakenheath and Mildenhall, are absolutely key to this area and base members are familiar faces in our towns.

“We offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to those involved,” he said.

The scene at RAF Lakenheath this morning appeared to be business as usual, with normal security provision in place.

Flags flew at half-mast in recognition of the four victims.

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