At least 5 die in helicopter crash off England
(London - AP, December 27, 2006) -- A helicopter carrying seven people crashed off the northest English coast Wednesday night, killing at least five and setting off a major sea rescue, officials said.
A pair of Royal Air Force helicopters, two lifeboats and other vessels were searching the cold waters of Morecambe Bay just east of the Isle of Man.
Lancashire police and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said five bodies had been found and the search was continuing for the other two people aboard.
The Maritime agency said contact with the helicopter was carrying five gas rig workers and two crew was lost around 6:40 p.m.
"It is a major search and rescue operation at this point," Michael Mulford of the Royal Air Force Rescue Center told Sky News.
It wasn't immediately known what caused the crash or if weather, mechanical problems or something else was a factor.
Energy company Centrica PLC, in a statement, said that the helicopter was used to ferry workers to and from its gas rigs in the East Irish Sea.
Gas was discovered offshore of Morecambe Bay in 1974 and some rigs operate there extracting the six trillion cubic feet of natural gas that is beneath the sea floor.
In February 2004, 23 shellfish collectors from China died when they were trapped by the tide on the sand at Morecambe Bay and drowned.
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