UK & World News
Afghanistan Helicopter Crash Victims Named
Tributes have been paid to the five British servicemen killed in a Lynx helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan.
The victims included Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters from the Army Air Corps.
They were all based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, along with Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan from the Royal Air Force, who also died, said the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas of the Intelligence Corps was another victim.
An investigation is taking place into why the aircraft crashed on Saturday morning in the Takhta Pul district of Kandahar, 30 miles from the Pakistan border.
The crash site has been cordoned off and the wreckage will be inspected.
The MoD has denied Taliban claims that insurgents shot down the helicopter, and initial investigations indicated a "tragic accident" during the routine flight rather than enemy action.
Captain Clarke, 30, from Cowbridge, Wales, was described by his commanding officer as a "fantastic young officer, full of life and immensely committed to his soldiers and friends".
He added: "In the short time he had served in the unit he had proven to be an exceptional aviator and forthright leader who always placed himself at the centre of squadron life."
Captain Clarke's family said: "Tom brought so much happiness and love to everyone he knew with his sparkling blue eyes and cheeky smile. He had an absolute passion for life and was the best part of us; we are all poorer today without him."
Warrant Officer Faulkner, 38, was an "experienced aviator, loving husband and hugely dedicated father to two children" who had been deployed to Afghanistan on numerous occasions.
His commanding officer said he had been "a stalwart of the squadron for many years" and "consistently displayed the guile, leadership and bravery so closely associated with his squadron".
"The loss of a warrant officer of his calibre and commitment will leave a huge void in the close knit fabric of the unit."
His family said: "Spen was a loving husband to Cally and devoted father to Natasha and Jack, and will be greatly missed. A huge gap has been left in our hearts forever. He has been tragically taken away whilst serving his Country, a job he loved. God rest his soul".
Corporal Walters, 36, was a "highly competent" crewman, deploying to Afghanistan on a number of occasions.
His commanding officer said: "Corporal James Walters, or 'Bungle' as he was known, was a hugely committed soldier who had served with distinction throughout the Army Air Corps.
"Respected and well liked, he was always a mentor and friend to the less experienced members of the Unit. Never afraid to face the challenges of operations in Afghanistan, he served with immense skill and bravery. A huge character, the loss of Bungle has devastated the squadron."
His family said: "We cannot begin to comprehend the tragic loss of a beautiful and loving husband, daddy, son, and brother. James has left a huge hole in all our hearts."
Flight Lieutenant Chauhan, 29, from Birmingham, was on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer when he died.
His commanding officer said he was "a hugely influential and well respected officer whose enthusiasm and professionalism permeated every aspect of his work. Charming, funny and sharp as a tack, he was immensely proud of his role and of his service."
He added he was an "exceptional officer, he clearly had a bright future ahead of him. His loss has devastated the station."
Lance Corporal Thomas, 26, who was from Brecon in Powys, Mid-Wales, volunteered to be mobilised from the Army Reserves for deployment to Afghanistan and arrived last December to be part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
His commanding officer said: "This tragic incident has taken a young, enthusiastic and highly capable Intelligence Corps soldier away from us and his loss is deeply felt by all members of the unit and the Intelligence Corps as a whole."
His family said: "Oliver was a truly amazing person, living his life to the full, while fulfilling some of his many dreams and adventures. He was very much loved and will be greatly missed by his grieving family and friends."