Memorial planned for tragic airmen

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A memorial service for the four US airmen killed in a helicopter crash close to the Norfolk coast is to take place at RAF Lakenheath.

Officials at the airbase are to stage the service in memory of Capt Sean Ruane, Capt Christopher Stover, Tech Sgt Dale Matthews and Staff Sgt Afton Ponce, tomorrow afternoon.

Victim: Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews.

Victim: Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews.

The four, who were all stationed at RAF Lakenheath in the 48th Fighter Wing, were killed on Tuesday, January 7, after their HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter came down on the Cley Marshes between Cley-next-the-Sea and Salthouse while on a low level flying mission.

All four bodies were flown out of RAF Lakenheath back to America at the weekend.

“Our fallen airmen were returned to the United States on Sunday where an official service for each one will take place in accordance with his or her family’s wishes,” said Col Kyle Robinson, 48th Fighter Wing commander.

“I would like to thank you all for your warmth and kindness. From the condolences, to the flowers and cards at our front gate, to the support you have given our responders at the site of the accident- we are truly thankful.”

An investigation is still ongoing at the crash site, which was described by Norfolk Police as the size of a football pitch, to determine the cause of the accident, while salvage teams are still collecting dozens of rounds of live ammunition left strewn across the area.

A second helicopter that had remained at the site to assist emergency teams on the night of the accident finally returned to Raf Lakenheath on Monday.

“While the wing continues to mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters, the investigation continues,” said Col Robinson.

“We have a team of highly-qualified officers working day in day out to determine the cause of the accident. At this time we can’t speculate.”

A police cordon at the crash site and on the closed section of the A149 between Salthouse to Old Woman’s Lane is expected to remain in place until Monday.