USAF helicopter crash: Service remembers Lakenheath victims

Four candles were lit in memory of the crew

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A church service has been held to remember the lives of four US aircrew who died in a Norfolk helicopter crash.

Capt Christopher Stover, Capt Sean Ruane, Technical Sgt Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt Afton Ponce, based at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, died while on a training mission near Cley on Tuesday.

The service at nearby Salthouse Church was presided by the Bishop of Lynn, the Right Reverend Jonathan Meyrick.

During the service four candles were lit to remember the crew.

Among the 100-strong congregation were base commanders from RAF Marham and Lakenheath.

Col Mark Ciero, vice commander of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, said: "It's been a blessing. The affection from the folks that are in the community helping us has been amazing.

"It's obviously a very solemn feeling being back in the fighter wing, but we have rallied around the families giving them the support that's necessary to get through this, as well as helping each other."

Bishop Meyrick said: "When something of this nature happens amongst you, it scars the community as well as the people who are directly involved."

Bodies removed

Prayers have also been said at other services across Norfolk and Suffolk to remember the victims.

Afton Ponce, Christopher Stover, Dale Matthews, Sean Ruane Staff Sgt Afton Ponce, Capt Christopher Stover, Technical Sgt Dale Matthews and Capt Sean Ruane were killed

The Pave Hawk helicopter crew were in crashed during low-level night training in marshes near Cley on Tuesday.

All four crew members from the 48th Fighter Wing were confirmed dead at the scene. Captains Stover and Ruane were pilots on the flight, while Tech Sgt Mathews and SSgt Ponce were acting as special mission aviators.

The bodies have since been removed from the site and were due to undergo post-mortem examinations on Friday.

An investigation into the crash has begun and it could take several weeks for a cause to become clear.

An online fund to raise money for the families of the crew has reached more than $33,000 (£20,000).

As military personnel continue their work at the site of the crash, a police cordon around the scene and a road closure on the A149 from Salthouse to Old Woman's Lane is expected to remain in place until 20 January.

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