There are fears tonight that up to four people may have been killed in a helicopter crash in the North.
Police said, however, that the exact nature of injuries were still being established after an aircraft went down in the Mourne Mountains in Co Down.
Mountain Rescue teams and Coastguard are also involved in the search operation launched after reports that a light aircraft or helicopter had crashed at 4pm.
It is now believed a helicopter has crashed at the Leitrim Lodge picnic area near Hilltown in the mountain range, .
Democratic Unionist representative for the area Jim Wells said the local community was shocked and now feared the worst.
“South Down has been hit by tragedies of this type over the years,” he said.
“It looks like we have had another accident which looks like it has led to multiple deaths.”
he Mournes area is internationally renowned for its picturesque scenery. The mountain range, set on the coastline of south Co Down, is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
The highest mountain in the range, Slieve Donard, is nearly 3,000 feet high.
But changeable weather patterns along the coast and the presence of the mountains have led to tragedy in the past.
In June last year three men were killed when their light aircraft crashed into a field near a private landing strip at Kilkeel, Co Down.
The pilot Hugh McKnight, who was a 53-year-old former police officer, was returning from the TT races in the Isle of Man with Andrew Burden and Stephen Annett, both aged 24.
The coastal community has also been hit by fishing tragedies in recent years.
The death of four police officers killed when their police 4x4 vehicle crashed on a winding road near Kilkeel in November 2008 also shocked the local community.
Today members of the public spotted a helicopter in the Mournes area and believed its engine sounded abnormally loud.
The emergency services later received reports that an aircraft was in difficulties.
Chartered helicopter flights in the region are a relatively common sight, with golfing groups and wedding parties known to have used them in the past. There was no immediate confirmation of the nature of today’s tragic flight.
Emergency services are at the scene of the crash site tonight and the area has been cordoned-off.
Air accident investigators have also been notified.