Echoes of Cley helicopter tragedy
08:55 14 March 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
Last night’s crash at Gillingham came two months after four airmen from RAF Lakenheath were killed in a helicopter crash near Cley.
Captains Christopher Stover, 28, and Sean Ruane, 31, Technical Support Sergeant Dale Mathews, 37, and Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce, 28, were killed on January 7 after the Pave Hawk helicopter they were manning came down on the north Norfolk coast.
The helicopter was performing a low-level training mission along the coast. The cause of the accident remains a mystery, with an investigation into the incident still being carried out by US military experts.
Colonel Kyle Robinson, 48th Fighter Wing commander, spoke to the families of the four victims and paid tribute to their bravery, saying their job was “to go anywhere and do anything to save lives”.
He added: “As a husband and father myself I cannot imagine how heartbroken you must feel, now missing a piece of your family.
“On behalf of the whole wing, I would like to say that we are thinking of you, we are praying for you and we’re here for you.
“There will be someone having breakfast with their families this morning, with their loved ones, and the members of this crew will have helped make that happen by doing their job and saving their lives.”
No warning messages were received from the helicopter prior to the crash. Public ervices saw thousands turn out to pay tribute in each of the victims’ US home towns.