Cley memorial to Lakenheath crash chopper crew unveiled

The memorial created by the residents of Cley-Next-the-Sea and Salthouse to the crew of a USAF Pave Hawk helicopter that crashed there in 2014 Picture: USAF/Staff Sgt. Stephanie Longoria ANL-171101-144729001
The memorial created by the residents of Cley-Next-the-Sea and Salthouse to the crew of a USAF Pave Hawk helicopter that crashed there in 2014 Picture: USAF/Staff Sgt. Stephanie Longoria ANL-171101-144729001

A memorial to the crew of an RAF Lakenheath rescue helicopter has been placed near the north Norfolk crash site by the local community there.

The memorial placed by the communities of Cley-Next-the-Sea and Salthouse, was dedicated on Saturday, the third aniversary of the crash.

A USAF Pave Hawk helicopter
Picture: USAF A1C Trevor T. McBride ANL-150801-114902001

A USAF Pave Hawk helicopter Picture: USAF A1C Trevor T. McBride ANL-150801-114902001

The HH-60G Pave Hawk from 56th Rescue Squadron (RQS), call sign Jolly 2, was during low-level training exercise when it struck geese and crashed, claiming the lives of two pilots, Capt Sean Ruane and Capt Christopher Stover, and two special missions aviators, Tech Sgt Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt Afton Ponce.

Saturday’s dedication began when two Pave Hawks of the 56th performed a ‘missing man flyover’ – a formation with a gap.

As the helicopters headed to the horizon, the memorial stone was unveiled.

Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing, of which the squadron was part, says that after the crash it received unending support from the local community who helped keep memories of the crew of Jolly 22 alive.

Lt Col Bernard Smith, 56th RQS commander, said: “I am deeply touched and so are all the members in the squadron, by the love and support that you are showing us here today.

“It was shown three years ago at the site and has left a mark in everyone that was there.”

“This is personally one of the hardest times of the year for me. Four of my brothers and sister were taken from us far too soon.

“The pain is very real and is there every day for me. One thing that gives me peace, and others as well, is the love in the community that we’ve seen.”

He ended the ceremony, which was attended by members of the air crew’s families, by thanking everyone involved in the memorial dedication.

He said each of the fallen had reflected the squadron’s motto: “These things we do, that others may live.”

The aquadron’s main role is to rescue airmen shot down behind enemy lines.