A MOTHER and daughter described the “traumatic” experience of helping at the crash site as reports suggest a bird strike may have downed Red 4.

Anita and Natasha Simpkins ran to the scene after Flt Lt Jon Egging’s plane came down in a field east of the Berry Hill sludge treatment plant, near Throop.

The site was still sealed off yesterday but RAF sources have told a national newspaper there is evidence of a “catastrophic bird strike.”

Natasha, 24, a freelance graphic designer from Throop, yesterday told the Echo she saw the disfigured remains of a large white bird in the River Stour just after the crash, marked with blue paint.

Asked about the possibility of a bird strike, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The investigation is still ongoing.”

Anita and Natasha heard a succession of bangs and saw a small puff of grey and black smoke.

They ran 400 yards as fast as they could to help and found parachute material on both sides of the river. Natasha said: “The plane’s body was all crumpled and it looked to be upside down. It looked like the body and outside panels had come off, there was lot of open tubes and blue paint everywhere.”

She jumped into the river to turn over a floating black backpack in case the pilot was underneath.

“It looked to me like an empty parachute bag,” she said.

She added: “It was scary. You didn’t know what you were going to find.”

Anita, 50, an accounts manager, briefed the first rescue helicopter to arrive and soon afterwards other members of the public found Flt Lt Egging.

She said: “At that point I said ‘let’s go’ because we had done our bit and I thought if he isn’t in a good state it’s not a good idea to see.

“We’ve been a bit traumatised by the whole experience.”

Both mum and daughter praised the other searchers for their teamwork. Natasha said: “It takes a lot of nerve to lift up an ejector seat to see if there’s a guy strapped to it.

“It’s the stuff of nightmares.”

Yesterday, around eight cars were parked in the field at the crash scene.

Occasionally, men in uniform walked in the fields, perhaps looking for debris, while other men worked near a wooden frame built around the jet body.

Dorset Police’s Underwater Search Team van was parked at Berry Hill.

The road closures were moved back to allow access to the sludge plant but floral tributes were still being laid at the junction of Throop Road and Broadway Lane.

Phyllis Wilkinson, from the nearby Roi-Mar park home, had laid red roses and said: “A Red Arrow flew over really low during the display but I don’t know if that was the actual plane.

“About 10 minutes later people started arriving and I have never seen so many helicopters.”

Tony Lade, from Winton Salvation Army, who were providing food and drink for emergency services and the investigators, said 50-60 had been on site on the day of the crash.