Arriving in Salthouse on Tuesday night I was greeted by dozens of flashing lights.

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Firefighters, police and coastguard teams had sealed off the A149 coast road as they dealt with the immediate aftermath of the tragic helicopter crash.

After dashing through the back roads to Cley, photographer Denise Bradley and I were greeted by a similar scene as both villages were sealed off in the ensuing police and military investigation.

Shock permeated both communities – a month after they suffered from flooding in the December 5 storm surge – as residents began to come to grips with the awful event, which had unfolded on the familiar marshes that surround their homes.

On Wednesday they awoke to a bright and sunny morning, but one that was clouded with tragedy as the details of the night before became clearer.

In Cley, businesses and residents went about their day but noted the village – popular with birdwatchers, walkers and visitors all year round – was quieter due to the road closures.

Eleanor Carter, who works at Picnic Fayre delicatessen in the village, said Cley was open as usual but the shock of Tuesday’s devastating crash was still sinking in.

“It’s a quiet Norfolk village and you don’t expect to hear on the national news that there was a US military helicopter crashing a mile away from where you live,” she added.

Out on the marshes themselves it was blustery but quiet, as the second Pave Hawk aircraft that was involved in the training exercise could be seen, standing sentinel over the crash site.

Walkers were still heading out on the footpath but their binoculars were trained on the fatal scene rather then the wildlife the marshes are so famous for.

Keen birdspotter George Money, 29, from Wells, travelled to Salthouse to see the site of devastation for himself.

He said: “It’s very shocking, it’s not something you see every day and not something you want to see.”

National and international media descended on Salthouse, surrounding its green with satellite trucks, cameras and microphones and setting up camp in the Dun Cow pub with laptops and equipment.

Landlord Daniel Goff said: “It’s sad that this is what brings attention to us.

“It’s a tragedy.”

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