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9 March 2000 Edition

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Family escapes helicopter crash

A Mullaghbawn family escaped injury or possible death last week when when a British Army Lynx helicopter plunged to the ground and narrowly missed their home.

The crash is the latest in the area and has caused great anger and heightened local fears over the safety of the Lynx and Puma helicopters which are used regularly in the area.

According to the Celtic League, which has a long record of military monitoring, these aircraft are flying with defective components.

The League maintains that the helicopters are semi-obsolete craft that have been fitted with second-hand tail rotors and are being used throughout the North but particularly in South Armagh. The Ministry of Defence have admitted that the Lynx helicopters have been fitted with second-hand parts in the tail rotor shafts.

Toni Carragher, spokesperson for the South Armagh Farmers and Residents Committee, has called for the immediate withdrawal of all British Army helicopters. ``The SAFRC is now demanding that all British military activity cease forthwith in the South Armagh area before the securocrats are responsible for another death in our area,'' she said.

It is believed that the Lynx had left the densely populated village of Bessbrook en route to either Forkhill or Crossmaglen when it crashed on Thursday, 2 March. Sinn Féin Assembly member for Newry and Armagh, Conor Murphy, said ``it was only through good fortune that the helicopter did not crash land onto someone's house or a school.

``The British Army has no need to be using helicopters in South Armagh. If the British government had lived up to its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, we would not be having this debate at all. The area would have been demilitarised and helicopters would not be in the sky. The British military must now ground its fleet of unsafe helicopters before someone on the ground is killed.''

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