A COMMUNITY came together today to pay their thanks and respects to two pilots who sacrificed their lives to save a village from further tragedy 20 years ago.

Two airmen, who were killed when their RAF Hawk jet crashed in Shap on October 22, 1999, have been praised and commemorated after bravely steering their plane away from the heart of the village.

Squadron Leader Mike Andrews, 38, of Hampshire, and Flight Lieutenant Steve Todd, 28, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, had been on a training mission from RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, when the plane struck a row of trees, demolished an outer-building and ploughed into the bridge wall near Bleak House.

Several houses were damaged by the debris and miraculously only one resident was injured from the incident.

Today a service was held at St Michael's Church followed by a parade to the crash site at Skew Bridge in memory of the two pilots and the tragic day.

Dozens of residents and Kendal Cadets gathered to the crash site after the service to pay tribute to the fallen pilots.

Wreaths were laid and a minute silence was observed before people looked up to the sky to witness a Hawk Jet fly over the village.

In attendance were also RAF personnel.

Shap's parish council chairperson, Jean Jackson, who laid a wreath at the site, said the hairs stood up on the back of her neck when the plane roared across the village.

"I was the chairman when this tragedy happened twenty years ago," she said. "And it was very sobering at the time for everyone.

"And today it was our opportunity as a community to express our greatest thanks to the forces.

"It was lovely to see residents and those who have travelled out of the area to come and pay their respects."

Reverend Squadron Leader Geoffrey Firth said at the service that it was "day of mixed emotions".

"One of the cruelties of life is when a horrible tragedy pays no regard to the victims," he said.

"For the family and friends of the pilot today is a day of sadness and sorrow, but for those who live locally it is a sense of relief and thanks that no one else was hurt."

More to follow in this week's edition.