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Locals and tourists tell of watching from Cley windmill as helicopter crash drama unfolded

13:37 08 January 2014

The scene of the American military helicopter crash at Cley next the Sea. Emma Wedderburn at Cley Mill. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

The scene of the American military helicopter crash at Cley next the Sea. Emma Wedderburn at Cley Mill. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Stunned tourists staying at historic Cley Windmill watched the drama unfold from the top of the building, which overlooks the marshes.

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Emma Wedderburn is the chef at the windmill, and she was working in the restaurant on Tuesday night.

She said she did not hear any noises but was alerted by the commotion outside and the emergency vehicles descending on the village.

With some of the people staying at the windmill, she went to the top of the building, and watched the drama unfold below.

She said: “We did not see the crash but when we got to the top of the windmill we could see the second helicopter that had arrived and the lights in the dark.

“It was horrific and quite scary. We were just thinking, ‘Whatever is going on?’, and ‘What has happened?’.

“I feel so sad this morning that we were there last night when four people died so close by. The helicopters do practise here and we had seen them the night before.”

Trish Watts, who works at Cley Windmill and lives at Salthouse, said: “I was in my back room when I heard a helicopter flying really low. It sounded as if it was going to land in my garden. And then later we heard all the police and fire engines arrive - it was like Beirut out there.”

Sarah Whittley, who owns Pinkfoot Gallery in Cley, returned to the village at about 7.50pm.

She said: “We heard all the sirens and saw the emergency vehicles. We went down to the scene and could see the second helicopter on the East Bank.

“It’s so sad that four people have lost their lives in such a beautiful, tranquil area, where I go bird watching most mornings. Normally I wake up to a beautiful site, but not today.”

Jody Lawrence, who works as a night-time photographer, got the first picture of the scene.

He said: “It’s very shocking; you don’t expect anything like this. I live in Wiveton, the next village. I was in my bathroom and I heard a very loud helicopter flying overhead, although the engine sounded all right.

“I went down to the scene with Sarah and we could see that there was water under the second helicopter, as the tide was coming in.”

Peter Cawthorn, who owns West Cottage Cafe in Cley, said: “I heard a thump. Shortly after, the road was ‘chocka’ with police and fire engines. Later on we saw the US vehicles, big SUVs and trucks, on the road.

“Helicopters quite often go over here quite low, as they practise a lot in the area.

“This morning I walked the dogs and could see the second helicopter in the marshes.

“It’s a tragedy really. I can’t understand how it crashed.”

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