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Separate air crashes claim seven

BIGGIN HILL, England -- At least seven people have been killed in two separate aircrashes -- one at an internationally-famous airshow.

Two people died when a vintage fighter jet crashed during the UK's Biggin Hill Airshow, organisers said.

Air show spokesman Nick Smith said the 1950s De Havilland Vampire was performing a display with a De Havilland Sea Vixen aircraft when it crashed north of the airfield just after 6 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, five people were killed when a helicopter crashed after hitting high-voltage power lines in Russia's Far East.

The RIA news agency quoted the Emergencies Ministry as saying the small MI-2 helicopter was carrying out a forest fire patrol near the port of Sovetskaya Gavan.

It said five passengers had been killed and the pilot was taken to hospital in a serious condition.

Witnesses at Biggin Hill said the plane corkscrewed toward earth and disappeared behind a ridge.

"I can think of no other way to describe it other than it just fell out of the sky," Smith told the Press Association.

"It was part of a display and the planes separated and we do not really know what happened then but the aircraft crashed."

The display was the final part of the air show.

James Downing, 17, from Crowborough, East Sussex, said he saw the Vampire corkscrew twice before it disappeared from sight.

He then saw a huge ball of fire leap into the air and heard a sound which he said was louder than "thunder."

He said: "As the Vampire and the Vixen turned around, the Vixen pulled away and the Vampire corkscrewed down behind the ridge.

"I didn't see anything until I saw the fireball go up in the air. I couldn't see anybody walking out of that alive.

"A fraction of a second after it disappeared, there was a ball of fire and the sound louder than thunder."

Earlier in the day the show was disrupted when a Venom aircraft became stranded on the runway.

Its undercarriage either collapsed or failed to come down when the aircraft came in to land.

The Biggin Hill Air Show, held at a former World War II fighter base in Kent, south of London, is one of Britain's longest-running air shows.

The De Havilland Vampire was produced after World War II and used as a fighter trainer by air forces around the world as late as the 1980s.

• Biggin Hill Airshow
• Kent Police
• De Haviland Vampire
• UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch

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