Helicopter recovered from 13,000ft under

IT was sunk as deep as the Titanic, but salvage experts have brought a doomed helicopter from HMS Richmond to the surface and recovered the body of her pilot.

The body of Lieutenant Rod Skidmore has been flown back to his native Dorset for burial after the June 12 crash.

But the navy fears it will never find the body of his observer, 25-year-old Lt Jenny Lewis from the Isle of Wight, who also died in the tragedy during the Portsmouth frigate's visit to the USA.

Richmond's helicopter dropped out of the sky while returning to the ship on a routine exercise.

A petty officer photographer was thrown out of the rear of the aircraft. But 39-year-old Lt Skidmore and his navigator were unable to escape.

The navy promised to leave no stone unturned in finding the cause of the accident and two months on, specialist salvage experts first found and then raised the Lynx to the surface.

Before they did, the salvagers from the USA laid a wreath over the crash site.

The navy says the Lynx was sitting on the seabed, 4,000 metres down 13,000ft around 190 miles from the naval port of Norfolk, Virginia.

In a delicate and lengthy operation, the helicopter was raised then carefully lifted on to the salvage ship, and Lt Skidmore's body removed.

'This has been a very delicate operation and carried out with great sensitivity. The body of Lt Skidmore has been flown home for burial, but sadly Lt Lewis was not found at the wreck site,' a naval spokeswoman said.

'Although the Lynx was lying in 4,000 metres of water, the aircraft was relatively intact and was lying close to where she went down.'

Richmond's captain, Commander Wayne Keble, said the accident had been 'the darkest hour' for his ship which in Lt Skidmore and Lewis had lost 'two great friends'.

The investigation into the accident is in the hands of a naval board of inquiry, which has yet to report, but engine failure is seen as the most likely cause of the crash.