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Bodies of US crew removed from helicopter crash site

A body is carried away from the scene. Picture: Reuters

A body is carried away from the scene. Picture: Reuters

  • by ANGUS HOWARTH
 

The bodies of the United States Air Force (USAF) crew killed in a helicopter crash in Norfolk have been removed from the scene.

Capt Christopher Stover, Capt Sean Ruane, Technical Sgt Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt Afton Ponce died in the crash in Cley next the Sea.

The HH-60G Pave Hawk, from the 48th Fighter Wing – also called the Statue of Liberty Wing – based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, came down on Tuesday.

The USAF said no warning or mayday message had been given before the crash.

The Hawk was armed with 600 bullets and a 9mm side-arm with 15 bullets, which were scattered across an area the size of a football pitch.

It was on a low-level night training mission, which Col Kyle Robinson, Commander of 48th Wing described as a routine flight. He said he could not imagine the heartbreak of the families involved.

He said no warning had been received about any problems with the helicopter, adding it was “still too early to speculate as what caused the crash and make all long-term decisions based on that”.

Captains Stover and Ruane were pilots, while Tech Sgt Mathews and Staff Sgt Ponce were acting as special mission aviators.

Col Robinson described the crash as a “tragic, sudden loss”. He said: “The Liberty Wing feels as though it has lost members of its family, and we stand by to support one another and these airmen’s families during this difficult time.”

He said the crew had been “flying to a gunnery range in Lincolnshire, and used that frequently for training”.

The crew had been in the air force “anywhere from a couple of years to upwards of 16 to 17 years”.

Norfolk Police said it had handed the investigation to the USAF as there was no evidence the crash was a criminal matter.

The USAF, supported by the Ministry of Defence, will lead the continuing investigation into the circumstances of the crash.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Dean, who has led the police response to the crash, said: “As has been the case throughout this investigation, our thoughts remain with the families and friends of the military personnel who lost their lives in this tragic incident.”

Mr Dean went on: “Even though our colleagues from the USAF, supported by the MoD, will now lead the ongoing inquiries, we will continue to support their work, engaging with local communities and providing reassurance and assistance where required.”

 
 
 

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