Bodies of five people found in wreckage after private helicopter went missing in Snowdonia

Nicola Harley
The UK Coastguard said it was coordinating a search operation in the Caernarfon Bay area of North Wales. - PA

The bodies of five people have been found with the wreckage of a missing  helicopter in Snowdonia, North Wales Police have said.

The privately owned twin squirrel red helicopter is believed to have left Milton Keynes on Wednesday en route to Dublin, via Caernarfon Bay.

A spokesman for the Coastguard said radar contact with the helicopter was lost on Wednesday afternoon and they began a search operation at 4.15pm.

However, poor weather has hampered the air search and efforts are currently restricted to land around the Snowdonia area.

A spokesman for the Coastguard said: "We've had some reports of less than 10 metres visibility in areas so the search teams really are being hampered by poor weather conditions.

"No air assets have been sent out by the Coastguard. That said, we are still looking to support North Wales Police in any way we can. We will do that when the weather provides us with that opportunity."

Caernarfon missing helicopter

Coastguard commander Mark Rodaway told BBC Breakfast the focus for the search had shifted inland.

He said seven mountain rescue teams and a dog search team were involved in trying to find the missing helicopter.

He said: "There's a whole range of inquiries that we will engage with; first of all we're working very closely with air traffic control and we're looking at a review of radar information and, secondly, obviously we will look for mobile phone data.

"All of that combined has given us a new focus, in and around the Snowdonia National Park."

A police spokesman said: "North Wales Police are co-ordinating ground searches with mountain rescue teams and working with the Coastguard and the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC)."

The Eurocopter AS55 Ecureuil 2 (Twin Squirrel), now made by Airbus, is a widely used twin-engine light utility helicopter which has a reputation for durability and requiring low maintenance.

Stock picture of the Twin Squirrel helicopter that left Milton Keynes to fly to Dublin, via Caernarfon Bay, before disappearing with five people on board

First introduced in the mid-1970s, the all-weather aircraft has evolved through several variants and is used by both civil and military applications.

With a cruising speed of 140mph and a range of nearly 440 miles, the model is used for extended low-level flights involved in filming and surveying.

Champion rally driver Colin McCrae was at the controls of a Twin Squirrel with his five-year-old son Johnny and his friend Ben Porcelli, six, on board in 2007 when it crashed in the grounds of his Lanarkshire home, killing all three.