Photo gallery: Poignant scenes as colleagues and family gather at RAF Lakenheath to remember four aircrew who died in Cley helicopter crash

Lt Col Jared Herbert addresses the congregation during a memorial service for USAF crew members Captain Sean Ruane, TSGT Dale Mathews, SSGT Afton Ponce, and Captain Christopher Stover. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire Lt Col Jared Herbert addresses the congregation during a memorial service for USAF crew members Captain Sean Ruane, TSGT Dale Mathews, SSGT Afton Ponce, and Captain Christopher Stover. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Ben Kendall and Rebecca Gough
Friday, January 17, 2014
9:47 PM

More than 2,000 US military personnel paused today at a memorial service to remember four US air crew members who died in a helicopter crash.

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Investigations continue into a USAF helicopter crash at Cley. 
RAF Lakenheath will hold a memorial service for Captains Christopher Stover and Sean Ruane, Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews and Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce who were killed in the crash.

PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYInvestigations continue into a USAF helicopter crash at Cley. RAF Lakenheath will hold a memorial service for Captains Christopher Stover and Sean Ruane, Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews and Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce who were killed in the crash. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

US Air Force (USAF) Captains Christopher Stover and Sean Ruane and Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews were killed, along with their female colleague Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce when the Pave Hawk helicopter they were flying a training mission in came down suddenly on marshland on the north Norfolk coast earlier this month.

Today body armour, rifles and dog tags belonging to each crew member were on display as their fellow servicemen and women gathered at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, where they were based.

Tributes were read to each of the air crew members of the 56th Rescue Squadron in the base’s Hangar Seven.

The service, which was not open to the public, had been arranged to allow the military community to come together to recognise the tragedy.

A spokesman from RAF Lakenheath said: “Your continued thoughts and prayers are appreciated.”

The crew members died on January 7. Their families were flown from America for the service, which began at 1.56pm.

Tributes were paid by 48th Fighter Wing Vice Commander Colonel Mark Ciero who said: “This is a sad day but it’s a day we also intend to use to heal ourselves. For our liberty wing it’s a time to come together and heal the community.”

Three F15s flew overhead in a missing man formation during the service.

Investigations are ongoing at the crash site where a cordon and a no-fly zone are in place while military personnel are at work at the scene.

A second helicopter that had remained at the investigation site since landing there to provide assistance on the night of the accident returned to RAF Lakenheath earlier this week.

Floral tributes have been left outside the gates of the base and green ribbons have been placed around it in memory of the fallen airmen.

Norfolk Police has handed the investigation over to the USAF as there was no evidence that the crash was a criminal matter.

The USAF, supported by the Ministry of Defence, is to lead the investigation into the crash.

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