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Bodies of four airmen returned to US

Flowers lie near one of RAF Lakenheath's gates on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, in remembrance of the four airmen killed in a an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash near Salthouse, England. Investigators are still looking into the cause of the crash.

RAF MILDENHALL, England — The bodies of four airmen killed in an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crash have been transferred to the United States.

The bodies arrived Monday at Dover Air Base, Del., after being airlifted from RAF Mildenhall, England, on Sunday, officials said.

Capt. Christopher S. Stover, Capt. Sean M. Ruane, Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce, all with the 56th Rescue Squadron from RAF Lakenheath, were killed during a low-level training mission Jan. 7 when their helicopter crashed on a nature reserve near Salthouse, England.

Col. Kyle Robinson, 48th Fighter Wing commander, said at a news conference two days after the incident that he was not aware of communications from the helicopter indicating anything was wrong before the crash.

However, residents of Salthouse said that the helicopter sounded unusual as it flew by the town on the night of the crash.

No details have been released about the cause of the accident, but some media outlets have speculated that a bird strike may have been to blame. The Telegraph reported that local police believed there was a “possibility” the helicopter struck a goose.

Residents of Salthouse are used to hearing low-flying aircraft. A local government official told The Guardian that flying low over the birds’ breeding grounds was an “accident waiting to happen.”

mathis.adam@stripes.com

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