THE bodies of three teenage air cadets, two boys and a girl, were

found last night after an RAF helicopter plunged into a lake in North

Wales during a training flight.

The three, from the East Lancashire wing of the Air Training Corps,

were aboard a Wessex helicopter from RAF Valley on Anglesey. The

helicopter's rear rotor failed.

Four other people aboard the aircraft -- three male RAF crew and a

fourth cadet, a 16-year-old girl -- managed to free themselves after it

crashed into Llyn Padarn, a lake by the Snowdonia holiday town of


As scores of holidaymakers watched from the lakeside, the helicopter

sank in a matter of seconds with the three cadets trapped inside.

Police divers began searching the lake soon after the mid-afternoon

crash and located the helicopter in 70ft of water by 7pm. The first body

was brought ashore an hour later and the others soon after.

The four survivors were brought to the shore by canoeists taking part

in water sports on the lake and were taken to hospital 15 miles away in

Bangor. All suffered back injuries in the accident but none was in a

serious condition.

Snowdonia National Park warden Aled Taylor, who saw the crash, said:

''The tail rotor of the helicopter stopped and the machine went out of


''We had radio contact with another helicopter which was scrambled,

and because there were so many people at the lakeside it was possible to

direct the machine to a pretty precise location where the Wessex went


The lake, which is more than 100ft deep in places, has the reputation

of being particularly cold.

Ieuan Williams, who was working at a lakeside garage at the scene of

the crash, said: ''We thought the helicopter was coming down on the

garage but the pilot managed to manoeuvre it over the lake. The nose

went down and it crashed into the water.''

North Wales police last night said next of kin of those involved in

the crash had all been informed, but no names had yet been released.

Flight-Lieutenant Nick Stillwell, who was piloting another Wessex from

RAF Valley when he heard the distress call, said: ''We flew directly

here and heard the locater beacons going off.

''When we arrived we could see one of the people being towed in by a

canoe. We landed on the bank of the lake and our winchman helped one of

the crew ashore.

''We put them into stretchers and flew the worst three injured -- the

three crewmen -- to Bangor Hospital. We came back for the fourth but she

had been taken by ambulance to Bangor by then.''

The accident was captured on video by a holidaymaker, David Sowden, of

Walton Road, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, who was on the Padarn Lake steam

railway with his wife and family when he spotted the helicopter


He said: ''I was videoing the helicopter because I thought they were

on a routine training exercise. Then it seemed to go into a spiral and

crashed into the lake. I couldn't believe my eyes. I kept videoing all

the time but I couldn't really grasp what I was watching. It was gone

from the surface within a matter of seconds.''

He gave the videotape to BBC Wales, and millions of people saw it on

national BBC TV news last night.