Tributes to Afghanistan helicopter crash servicemen

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Media captionCapt Thomas Clarke and L/Cpl Oliver Thomas died along with three of their colleagues

Tributes have been paid to two Welsh serviceman who died alongside three others in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.

One of its pilots Capt Thomas Clarke, of Cowbridge, was described as a "rising star" of the Army Air Corps.

The family of army reservist L/Cpl Oliver Thomas, 26, from Brecon, paid tribute to an "amazing person".

An investigation has begun into how the Lynx helicopter came down in Kandahar province on Saturday.

The aircraft went down in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar, some 30 miles from the Pakistan border.

The Ministry of Defence said the accident happened during "a routine flight" and the crash site, close to Kandahar airfield, had been cordoned off.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Spencer Faulkner and Cpl James Walters from the Army Air Corps also died in the crash, along with RAF intelligence officer Flt Lt Rakesh Chauhan.

'Rising star'

Capt Clarke, who was one of the helicopter's two pilots, was described by his army superiors as an "exceptional aviator and forthright leader" who always placed himself at the centre of squadron life.

One tribute read: "His brightness, character, humility and charm will be remembered by all. He brought a smile to people's faces and I was fortunate enough to have worked with him at RAF Odiham as well as in Afghanistan.

"A rising star of the Army Air Corps his loss will be deeply felt and I feel honoured and privileged to have called him a friend.

"He will be deeply missed by the air detachment and by his squadron. My thoughts and prayers are with his loving wife Angie and his family and friends at this difficult time," a statement from the commander of the deployed Lynx detachment said.

Image caption The incident happened in Kandahar province

In a statement, Capt Clarke's family said: "Tom brought so much happiness and love to everyone he knew with his sparkling blue eyes and cheeky smile.

"He had an absolute passion for life and was the best part of us; we are all poorer today without him. 'We carry your heart, we carry it in our heart'," their statement said.

'Bright and gifted'

L/Cpl Thomas, a researcher for Brecon and Radnorshire MP Roger Williams, joined the army reserves in 2011.

His commanding officer said he was a "young, enthusiastic and highly capable" soldier.

Another tribute read: "Lance Corporal Oli Thomas was the embodiment of his generation - bright, gifted with an enquiring mind and laser focused on the task in-hand.

"The bonus for us was that he was also blessed with a natural flair and the happy-knack of always being able to raise a smile with his keen sense of wit.

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Media captionMaj Gen Richard Felton: "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families at this most difficult time"

"The future and uncertainty did not disturb him. He only saw opportunity ahead and, ultimately, it was his irresistible addiction to the life-force that took him away."

Roger Williams MP said it was a pleasure working alongside L/Cpl Thomas and said he would miss him dearly.

"We were all so proud of him when he first joined the Army reserves. His integrity and strength of character made him a perfect ambassador for our country," he said.

Teachers at Lady Hawkins School in Kington, Herefordshire, where L/Cpl Thomas was a former head boy, held a 15-minute silence.

Head teacher Gary House said: "We're very much a family as a school and we feel the loss really deeply. The atmosphere at the school today is very, very flat."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in a statement: "It is very sad to hear about the death of a young man who had a promising future ahead of him. It is even sadder for those colleagues of Olly in the Liberal Democrats who have lost a fellow activist and dear friend".

The crash is the first fatal accident of the Afghan conflict involving a UK military helicopter and takes the number of British personnel killed in the conflict to 453.

The MoD said it did not know how long it would take investigators to report back on what happened.

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