British military spokesman Captain Al Lockwood said, ”All those on the helicopters have perished.’
“It’s a great tragedy.”
The two Sea King Mk 7 helicopters reportedly collided while one was taking off from the British flagship the Ark Royal while the other attempted to land. The helicopters were reportedly flying surveillance missions over Iraq.
British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Saturday there was no indication that enemy fire contributed to the crash.
Search and rescue teams were launched to scour the Gulf for survivors but none were found.
“We do have very careful plans and procedures to ensure we have separation of all the aircraft being used,” Lockwood said. “Sadly, last night something was not quite right and we are looking to find out what that was as quickly as possible.”
The commander of the Ark Royal, British Captain Alan Massey, said the work of the ship’s crew and aviation units would go on and that helicopters from the same squadron had already been dispatched to continue the surveillance mission. Massey described the lost crews as “extremely professional.”
“I know that what they would have said to us now that there is a mission to do… we have Marines on the ground who need our support,” Massey told the BBC. “What they would have wanted above all else is that we crack on and get this job done.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed “deep sadness” over the loss of life in the second fatal helicopter crash in as many days.
Eight British and four American Marines were killed on Saturday when their U.S. CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in the Kuwaiti desert.
The BBC said Britain’s Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who flew Sea Kings for the Royal Navy and saw combat during the Falklands war, sent condolences to the crews’ families and said he was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the loss.
Britain has committed 45,000 troops to the coalition force fighting in Iraq.