An RAF engineer died when his Red Arrows Hawk T1 aircraft crashed after leaving RAF Valley in North Wales.
Eyewitnesses saw the distinctive red aircraft explode after hitting the ground. It is believed only one parachute was spotted moments before the tragedy.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the engineer died in the incident. It is understood the jet was returning to RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire when it suffered a major problem.
The wreckage of the Red Arrows Hawk jet aircraft is pictured on Anglesey in North Wales today
An engineer onboard the two-person aircraft died following this afternoon’s crash
Plumes of black smoke were seen billowing into the sky after the jet crashed at about 1.30pm
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier offered his ‘deepest thoughts’ to the engineer’s family, adding: ‘This tragic accident is a reminder that we must never take for granted the risks our people take in the service of our country.’
Group Captain Nick Tucker-Lowe read out a short statement about the incident.
He confirmed that the pilot of the aircraft survived the crash.
The Air Accident Investigation Branch will assist in determining the cause of the crash.
No details will yet be given about the engineer who died, with the family being asked for 24 hours before releasing further details.
He said: ‘It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death of an engineer from the RAF Aerobatics Team (The Red Arrows) in a tragic accident today.
‘The serviceman’s family have been informed and have asked for a period of grace before further details are released.
‘The pilot of the aircraft survived the incident and is currently receiving medical care.’
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of the RAF engineer at this incredibly sad time.’
The jet’s pilot is believed to have ejected from the aircraft before hit exploded on the ground. He is currently being treated in hospital.
It is understood the aircraft was leaving RAF Valley and returning to the Red Arrows home base at RAF Scampton.
Howard Rigby was playing golf near RAF Valley at the time of the tragedy.
He said: ‘I heard an explosion, quite a loud bang. I turned immediately to the airport, I could see a ball of flame and a multi-coloured parachute.
‘Just one parachute, not very high which is a bit worrying. I immediately knew there’d been a major incident.’
Plumes of black smoke were seen billowing into the sky after the jet crashed at about 1.30pm today in photographs taken by pipe welder Deno James, who works nearby.
He said: ‘I was near the compound and the plane came around to do a practice landing on the runway. It missed the runway and landed at the left hand side.
‘Two pilots were ejected about 200 yards from the ground. I pulled up for a moment in my truck watching and watched the plane come over my head.’
Caterer Anne Wilson works at The Anglesey Golf Club, situated at the end of the runway at RAF Valley, and saw the aftermath of the crash on Tuesday.
The emergency services on the scene at RAF Valley following the plane crash this afternoon
Witnesses have claimed that the pilot was forced to eject from the aircraft over RAF Valley
The 52-year-old said: ‘I did not see the crash but I heard a very loud noise – we are used to the planes going over but this was unusual.
‘I did go and have a look and there was a big fireball and lots of smoke… quite a few of the members actually saw it.
‘They said the plane came in quite steeply and saw a pilot eject, but that it was very low to the ground when they ejected.’
Sian Rebecca Williams, an 18-year-old student from Rhosneigr, north Wales, said she was waiting at Rhosneigr train station when the jet flew overhead.
‘The Red Arrow came over and because I’d hardly seen one before I thought “Wow, it’s out”.
‘From what I remember it did a loop and flew towards the runway and looked like it was about to land.
North Wales Police confirmed they were in attendance and were called to the scene at 1.50pm
‘As I was looking I saw the parachute of one pilot open and then the plane hit the runway with a bang and a crumbling noise.
‘Then it just burned bright orange and there was smoke everywhere.’
Charles Round from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, was out walking on the Wales Coastal Path near the airfield when the crash happened.
Charles said: ‘I was with my partner Helen and our dog Pip heading towards the beach when we heard a muffled explosion.
‘We turned around to see thick, billowing clouds of black smoke rising into the air. I walked to the top of the sand dunes.
‘I happened to have a pair of binoculars with me and I could clearly see there was an aeroplane, on fire, on the runway.
‘Shortly after that the fire engines turned up spraying white foam onto the aircraft and dealing with the blaze.’
The on-base fire engine drove out to the wreckage ‘instantly’, she said, putting the flames out before an air ambulance arrived.
It is understood the Red Arrows aircrew had been at RAF Valley for routine Hawk simulator training – something that takes place once a month.
They had just taken off from the base and were on their way back to RAF Scampton, where the aerobatic team are based, when the incident happened.
Some 1,500 service personnel, civil servants and contractors work at RAF Valley on Anglesey
Firefighters are pictured on the airfield following the crash on Angelesey at 1.30pm today
RAF Valley in North Wales is also home to the military’s search-and-rescue, post-crash team
A Red Arrows jet has crashed after an incident at RAF Valley in North Wales this afternoon
North Wales Police confirmed they were called to the scene on Anglesey at around 1.50pm
The wreckage is pictured after a Red Arrows jet crashed at RAF Valley in North Wales today
Aviation enthusiast Wyn Evans added that he saw the aircraft get into difficultly after take off, as it continued banking towards the railway line then the airfield.
Councillor Richard Dew from the Isle of Anglesey County Council, who lives close to the RAF base, said: ‘I hope everybody will be fine.
‘This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often. I know a lot of people who work on the base, I just hope everyone is fine.’
Another witness, Matthew Calvert, said he was working nearby when he looked up and saw the aircraft ‘wobbling’ before it crashed – followed by a big ball of flames.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an incident today at RAF Valley involving a Hawk aircraft. We are investigating the incident and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’
North Wales Police confirmed they were in attendance and were called to the scene at around 1.50pm.
A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesman said: ‘We were called shortly before 1.30pm this afternoon to reports an aircraft had crashed at RAF Valley in Holyhead. We sent an emergency ambulance and a Wales Air Ambulance to the scene.’
One of the other Red Arrows is parked up outside the Hawk T2 Hangers at RAF Valley today
Welsh Ambulance Service said it was called to reports an aircraft had crashed at RAF Valley
A Red Arrow pictured today, which is believed to be the same plane that crashed at RAF Valley
A Red Arrows display over a charity football match at the ground of non-league team Lincoln United FC tonight has been cancelled due to the crash.
The world-famous aerobatic team performs stunts and daredevil displays, and flies the distinctive Hawk fast-jets.
Based at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, all Red Arrows pilots have flown operationally in frontline aircraft before joining the display team.
Their usual display covers an area over six miles, with jets flying as close as 15ft apart at more than 400 miles an hour, sometimes flying just 100ft above the ground.
Some 1,500 service personnel, civil servants and contractors work at RAF Valley on Anglesey, which is also home to the military’s search-and-rescue, post-crash team.
The Duke of Cambridge served as a search and rescue helicopter pilot at the base, where about 1,500 service personnel, civil servants and contractors work.
The incident happened this afternoon at the Royal Air Force Valley (pictured) in North Wales
The world-famous Red Arrows team performs stunts and daredevil displays (file picture)
Last month, ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker Aircraft Company was fined £1.1 million after a breach of health and safety law led to the death of a Red Arrows pilot.
Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham was killed after being ejected from his Hawk T1 while carrying out pre-flight checks on the ground at Scampton in November 2011.
The parachute on the Mark 10B ejector seat did not deploy and the 35-year-old airman from South African airman fell 200ft before he later died in hospital.
In August 2011, Red Arrows pilot Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging crashed his Hawk T1 jet into the River Stour near the Dorset village of Throop and died.
His wife Emma was in the crowd watching the display as he fought to manoeuvre his plane away from the village, crashing into a field before plunging into the river.
How many fighter plane accidents have been fatal in recent years?
Following the Red Arrows crash in North Wales today, here are some of the other air disasters involving fighter planes in Britain in recent years:
Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham (left), 35, and Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging (both), 33, both died in separate accidents in 2011
- August 2015 – Eleven men were killed when a vintage Hawker Hunter jet plummeted on to the A27 in West Sussex during a loop-the-loop stunt at the Shoreham Airshow. A further 13 people, including the pilot Andy Hill, were injured. The disaster led to the cancellation of the Red Arrows performing stunts at the Farnborough Air Show for the first time in more than 50 years over safety fears.
- August 2015 – RAF-trained fast jet pilot Kevin Whyman, 35, was killed when his Folland Gnat aircraft plummeted during an aerial display at the CarFest event in Oulton Park, Cheshire.
- November 2011 – Highly experienced Red Arrows pilot Sean Cunningham, 35, was fatally injured when he was ejected from the cockpit of a Hawk T1 aircraft while on the ground at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire. A coroner ruled that the safety pin on the ejector seat had been “entirely useless”.
- August 2011 – Red Arrows Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, 33, was flying a Hawk T1 when it came down into a field after he pulled six times the force of gravity at an air show near Bournemouth Airport, killing him instantly.
- September 2007 – James Bond stuntman Brian Brown, 49, died when he crashed a Second World War Hurricane after carrying out an unplanned barrel roll at a re-enactment of the Battle of Britain at Shoreham Air Show, West Sussex.