Vanc. Air Force capt. dies in helicopter crash

Photo courtesy of the Stover family.

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by Associated Press and KGW.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 5:15 PM

LONDON — A U.S. Air Force Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in the coastal marshes of eastern England during a training mission on Tuesday night, killing all four crew members aboard, officials said.

One of those killed was 28-year-old Captain Christopher Stover of Vancouver, Wash., according to a Royal Air Force statement.

Stover graduated from Evergreen High School in 2004. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2008 as a Pave Hawk pilot and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan before his current deployment in England.

The report identified the other crew members as Captain Sean Ruane, Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews and Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce.

The helicopter crashed at about 6 p.m. local time near Salthouse on the Norfolk coast, a statement from the U.S. Air Force said. The aircraft was based at the nearby Royal Air Force station in Lakenheath, Suffolk County, which hosts USAF units and personnel.

The helicopter, assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing, was flying low at the time of the crash, the statement added.

In Washington, a U.S. defense official said the accident killed the four U.S. Air Force crew members aboard. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the crash publicly.

Emergency workers from the fire brigade, coast guard and police were at the scene. Police in Norfolk County said they believe there was ammunition on board the helicopter, and the scene was cordoned off so that experts could ensure the area was safe. Apart from the crew, nobody was put in any danger, police said.

It is not yet known what caused the accident.

The Stover family released a statement to news media Wednesday afternoon.

"On behalf of the Stover family, my wife, my daughter and my daughter-in-law, and I want to express our deepest appreciation of the support and prayers we have received from our extended family, friends, co-workers and people that knew Chris. Chris was doing what he truly enjoyed, flying. Chris touched so many lives and left everyone better for it. We are proud of his service to our country. We all miss him so very much. He was married 12/1/1"

Pave Hawks — a modified version of the better-known Black Hawks — are 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.

Pave Hawks have been deployed in numerous missions, including to Japan in the wake of the tsunami in 2011 and to southern U.S. after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They also support military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

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