One man has died and another is fighting for his life after two Tornado jets crashed off the north coast of Scotland.
Four personnel from RAF Lossiemouth were involved in the incident in which the Tornado GR4s came down in the Moray Firth on Tuesday.
A rescue helicopter picked up two people who were taken to hospital in Inverness before continuing to search for the remaining pair. However, it has been confirmed that one of the men rescued has died and the other is in a critical condition.
The two missing crew members are now presumed dead.
A spokesman for RAF Lossiemouth confirmed that the crew involved were from the 15 (Reserve) Squadron at the base.
He added: "Following the incident involving two of our Tornado GR4 aircraft in the Moray Firth yesterday, it is with great sadness that I must confirm the death of one of the crew members, an officer from 15 (Reserve) Squadron, based here at RAF Lossiemouth.
"A second crew member remains under medical care, where he is in a serious but stable condition. Two additional personnel remain unaccounted for. Due to extremely poor weather conditions in the area, the RAF and Her Majesty’s Coastguard have made a joint decision not to resume search and rescue operations.
"The operation will be resumed as a recovery operation as soon as possible, but we must be realistic: given the length of time that has elapsed since the accident, there is no expectation of recovering missing personnel alive."
The spokesman continued: "The Royal Air Force is in contact with the next of kin of all those involved. As I am sure you will understand, they have asked for a period of time to take in the news and inform extended family members before further details are released. The Royal Air Force intend to respect this and I would ask the media to do likewise.
"Clearly, this incident will be subject to full investigation, and a service inquiry will be led by the Military Aviation Authority. It is important that we establish the facts of what happened and it is vital that the investigation is allowed to take its course. But the priority now is to ensure that the families of those involved receive the support they need at this most difficult of times."
Fred Caygill, a Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman, said on Wednesday: "The search-and-rescue phase of the mission was terminated at 7.04pm on Tuesday. We are now in a recovery phase. We stand by to assist the Ministry of Defence in any way that we can if required."
Aberdeen Coastguard contacted the RNLI for assistance at around 1.50pm on Tuesday after the jets came down about 25 miles south of Wick. Around 15 lifeboat volunteers joined the rescue operation in boats from Wick, Invergordon and Buckie.
The boats headed for the Beatrice oil field area, supported by a helicopter from Stornoway in the Western Isles. Crew from the Buckie boat reported that two people were taken from the sea by helicopter and flown to Raigmore Hospital, although their condition is not known.
Group Captain Ian Gale, the station commander, said his thoughts were with the families and friends of those involved.
In a statement released by the MoD, he said: "It is with great regret that I must confirm the loss of two Tornado GR4 aircraft, from this station, in an incident in the Moray Firth today. The circumstances remain uncertain but clearly this is a very serious incident. This incident involved four aircrew, all personnel from this station, and the thoughts of everyone here are with the families and friend of those involved."
He added: "I am confident that the Tornado aircraft on this station are operated as safely as they possibly can be - however, today's incident is a stark reminder that the military operations and training we conduct are not without risk. What happened [on Tuesday] is under investigation and more details will be released by the Royal Air Force in due course. Until then, I would ask the media to respect that this is a difficult time for the family, friends and colleagues of those involved and for the whole of the RAF Lossiemouth community."
Speaking at Prime Minister's questions in the House of Commons, David Cameron paid tribute to the injured and missing personnel.
He said: "Our thoughts should be with the friends, family and colleagues of those involved. The circumstances still remain uncertain but it's clearly a very serious incident. The investigation is ongoing and more details will be released by the RAF in due course."
He said it was a reminder of the risk pilots and navigators faced while on "vital training" missions.
First Minister Alex Salmond said: "This is tragic news and my sincere sympathy is with those loved ones who have been bereaved, and indeed all those affected. RAF Lossiemouth is at the heart of the community in Moray and I know how deeply and painfully this will touch not just the personnel and families directly connected with the base, but the whole region. The rescue services have worked incredibly hard in the hope of a different outcome and the Scottish Government remains ready to help in any way we can with the next phase of this operation."
Moray MP Angus Robertson, the SNP's defence spokesman, added: "My first thoughts are with the crew, their families and colleagues. Everyone in Moray has a connection with the RAF and this incident will be felt right across the community. The priority must now be for the support of the affected families and for the authorities to investigate the causes of this incident and ensure the future safety of flying operations and personnel."
Tornado aircraft have been involved in crashes in Scotland in recent years. In January 2011 two RAF crew were rescued after their Tornado GR4 jet came down in the sea off the west coast of Scotland. The crew, from RAF Lossiemouth, ejected from the plane before it landed in the waters at Loch Ewe, near Gairloch, Wester Ross.
RAF Lossiemouth, on the Moray Firth coast, is home to three squadrons of Tornado GR4s. The Tornado GR4 is a two-seat attack aircraft, capable of delivering a variety of weapons and reaching a maximum altitude of 50,000ft.
In July 2009 an RAF pilot and navigator were killed when their Tornado jet crashed into a hillside in Argyll. Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Thompson, 27, and Flight Lieutenant Nigel Morton, 43, died in the crash near the village of Arrochar. The aircraft was a RAF Leuchars-based Tornado F3 on a routine flight.
- Lossiemouth tries to come to terms with Tornado tragedy
- Rescue operation after two RAF Tornado jets crash in Moray Firth
People who read this story also read
- Teenager filmed women undressing in pool changing room at leisure centre
- Rescue operation after two RAF Tornado jets crash in Moray Firth
- Investigators probe RAF Tornado crash
- Two young boys charged with sex attack on 11-year-old girl in playground
- Two men cut free from car after it ploughs into wall and overturns