VANCOUVER, WA - The U.S. Air Force is confirming one of the crew members who died in a helicopter crash in England had been from Washington state.
The Air Force says Capt. Christopher S. Stover and Capt. Sean M. Ruane had been piloting the plane, along with Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews, and SSgt Afton M. Ponce.
Stover was from Vancouver, Washington. His parents, who live in Vancouver, say their son graduated from Evergreen High School in 2004. They say he had been serving a three-year deployment in England, after having served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was married in November of 2012, his wife lives in England.
Police in Norfolk still don't know what caused the crash.
The Pave Hawk helicopter slammed into the eastern coast during a low-level training mission Tuesday evening. Teams combing the marshes have been hampered by bullets scattered across the scene and have not yet recovered the crew's remains, but they hope to do so Thursday.
"We have currently cordoned off about 400 square meters of the marshland area," said Chief Superintendent Bob Scully of Norfolk Police. "The crash site itself I would describe as an area of debris on difficult terrain on the marsh."
Local authorities are carrying out a daylight investigation, and the bodies will be removed afterward. The aircraft was assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing.
The Pave Hawk copter assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing was based at the Royal Air Force station in Lakenheath. It was flying low at the time of the crash.
Pave Hawks are a modified version of the better-known Black Hawks. They're mostly used for combat search-and-rescue missions, mainly to recover downed air crew members or other personnel during war and other hostile situations. They typically practice flying low and fast, often at altitudes of hundreds, rather than thousands, of feet.
The choppers are highly regarded and have no known safety issues, said Peter Felstead, the editor of IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
"It's very difficult to know if there is a mechanical problem or something other than that," he said, adding the flooded marshes will complicate the recovery of debris. The helicopter plummeted into the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Marshes Nature Reserve.
The aircraft was based at the nearby Royal Air Force station in Lakenheath. Britain's Met Office says nearby Weybourne reported wind gusts of 36 mph (58 kph) at the time of the crash, though sustained winds were weaker. The area near the site has flooded twice.
"We are having very bad weather at the moment," Felstead said. "If you are in a helicopter and you are flying quite low, if anything does go wrong there's less chance to correct it."
Pave Hawks have been deployed in numerous missions, including to Japan in the wake of the tsunami in 2011 and to the southern United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also support military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.