Phew !!! Thank God !!

An army helicopter has made an emergency landing on a beach in County Antrim.

The two-man crew escaped unhurt and no-one at the scene was injured.

People who were on the strand at Portrush saw smoke billowing from the back of the helicopter as it circled above the sea at about 1045 GMT on Saturday.

It then made an abrupt landing on the sand.

The beach was busy as people gathered for the Irish National Surfing Championships.

Eyewitness Steven Montgomery said the helicopter came down quickly.

"It was circling erratically around at sea. It was just about 20 metres out to sea and then it came in and landed," Mr Montgomery said.

"It dropped in a matter of seconds on to the beach and it didn't crash, but it wasn't controlled. There was smoke streaming out at the back of the tail of it.

"The pilots got out sharpish."

A spokesman for the army press office said the Lynx helicopter had been on a training flight between Ballykelly to Aldergrove when it was forced to land.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. A second helicopter travelled to the beach in an effort to recover the damaged aircraft.

Recovery Operation

The spokesman said a clean-up operation was under way.

"Teams from Aldergrove and Ballykelly have been sent to the scene to initiate the recovery of the helicopter by road," he said.

"A further team has been sent to the site to ensure that any debris is cleared up and the scene is returned to its previous state."

At about 1700 GMT, a Chinook helicopter airlifted the damaged Lynx aircraft to Aldergrove where further investigations will be carried out.

The helicopter was part of the 5th Regiment Army Air Corp and Joint Army Helicopter Force NI based at RAF Aldergrove in Co Antrim.

There are over 100 British Army Lynxes operating across the world. The craft is mainly used for transporting troops and equipment in Northern Ireland.

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