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Helicopter pilot killed in crash laid to rest at Air Force Academy

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Three weeks after he died in a helicopter crash in England, Capt. Christopher Stover was brought home to the Air Force Academy.

More than 200 people attended a funeral mass Monday in the academy's chapel and the burial that followed at the academy cemetery. Stover, 28, was a 2008 academy graduate who was piloting an Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk on Jan 7 when it went down near the English coastal county of Norfolk, killing him and three crew members.

His widow said that the short time she got to spend with Stover was worth every second.

"I am the luckiest woman," Sarah Stover told mourners.

A math whiz and a soccer standout, Stover chose the academy over other college options. He became known for his heart more than his brain and brawn, said Stover's academy roommate, Robert Beardslee.

The Air Force is investigating the crash, which occurred during a night training exercise. The crash also killed the 56th Rescue Squadron's Capt. Sean M. Ruane, Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews, and Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce.

More than 2,000 people attended a memorial service for the crew in England.

The academy service drew Stover's friends, a crowd of classmates and a number of academy professors and leaders.

A noted distance runner, Stover had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Air Force helicopters are used for search and rescue work.

"He believed in a mission bigger than himself, but never played the hero," Sarah Stover said.

Stover's father, Richard Stover, said since the crash, he's found himself surrounded by a new family in blue uniforms.

"It's simply amazing the amount of love you guys have shown," Richard Stover told mourners.

The outpouring is a reflection of how Christopher Stover impacted those around him.

"Chris was able to teach and reach all of us," Richard Stover said.

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