Officials say bird strikes to blame for helicopter crash that killed crew from RAF Lakenheath

48th Fighter Commander Col Kyle Robinson at a press conference after the crash
48th Fighter Commander Col Kyle Robinson at a press conference after the crash
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The investigation into January’s helicopter crash on the north Norfolk coast which caused the death of a crew from RAF Lakenheath has found multiple bird strikes were to blame.

A report released today by US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa officials said the crew’s HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter experienced multiple bird strikes during a training mission on January 7 and impacted marshland near Cley-next-the-Sea approximately three seconds later.

It said: “At the conclusion of the investigation, the board president, Brig Gen Jon Norman, found clear and convincing evidence that multiple bird strikes caused the mishap by rendering the pilot and co-pilot unconscious and disabling the trim and flight path stabilization system.”

Officials believe a flock of geese took flight from Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Cley Marshes Nature Reserve and struck the helicopter after becoming startled by aircraft noise, with at least one goose hitting the Pave Hawk’s hose and at least three more penetrating its windscreen.

Without pilot input to correct a left roll, the helicopter was unable to remain airbourne or maintain controlled flight, according to the report.

The four US service personal killed in the crash - Captains Christopher Stover and Sean Ruane, Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews and Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce - were assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron, 48th Fighter Wing, at RAF Lakenheath.