UK & World News

  • 9 January 2014, 16:38

Norfolk Crash: Crew's Bodies Taken From Scene

The bodies of three American servicemen and one servicewoman who were killed in a helicopter crash in Norfolk have been removed from the crash site.

Captains Christopher Stover and Sean Ruane, Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews and Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce died when their Pave Hawk helicopter came down on a marsh near Cley next the Sea on Tuesday night.

A private ambulance was seen removing the first two bodies from the marsh at about 2pm today after what was described as a "complex" operation.

It is understood all the bodies have now been recovered from the wreckage and are due to be taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital ahead of a post-mortem.

Earlier, their commanding officer Colonel Kyle Robinson of 48th Fighter Wing paid tribute to the air crew, saying they made the "ultimate sacrifice".

He said: "I am deeply saddened by the loss of these airmen. They've made the ultimate sacrifice while training to save the lives of others."

Speaking directly to the families of the dead crew, he told a news conference on Thursday: "As a husband and father myself, I can't imagine how heartbroken you must be. We are thinking of you."

RAF Lakenheath, where the US Air Force's 48th Fighter Wing is based, said Capt Stover and Capt Ruane were the pilots during the routine training flight.

Tech Sgt Mathews and SSgt Ponce, thought to be from Priest River, Idaho, were acting as special mission aviators.

Col Robinson said he was "humbled" by the "outpouring in words" from the British public, who had expressed their condolences.

He said it was too early to determine what had caused the crash.

Air accident, RAF and US investigators have been at the scene of the tragedy, where debris was strewn across an area the size of a football pitch.

The investigation has been hampered by the live ammunition the helicopter had been carrying, with bullets scattered around the scene. The aircraft was carrying 600 rounds of .50-calibre ammunition.

Police are expected to maintain a 400m police cordon around the site until Monday.

The Norfolk coroner will not be carrying out an investigation into the deaths because the airmen were part of a "visiting force" and were exempt under the Visiting Forces Act 1952 and Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

The Pave Hawk - a derivative of the US Army's more famous Black Hawk - gets its name from the PAVE acronym, which stands for Precision Avionics Vectoring Equipment.

The helicopter is used for combat search and rescue, mainly to recover downed aircrew or other isolated personnel.

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