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Memorial to honour ‘four very special people’ killed in helicopter crash in north Norfolk

A memorial has been unveiled at Cley to remember the airmen killed in a helicopter crash near the village in January 2014. Pictured are Staff Sgt Afton Ponce, Capt Christopher Stover, Technical Sgt Dale Matthews and Capt Sean Ruane.

A memorial has been unveiled at Cley to remember the airmen killed in a helicopter crash near the village in January 2014. Pictured are Staff Sgt Afton Ponce, Capt Christopher Stover, Technical Sgt Dale Matthews and Capt Sean Ruane.

Archant

Captains Christopher S Stover, 28, and Sean M Ruane, 31, Technical Support Sergeant Dale E Mathews, 37, and Staff Sergeant Afton M Ponce, 28, died on a training mission near Cley, in January 2014, after a flock of geese brought down the American military aircraft.

A USAF helicopter at Cley following the crash. Picture: ANTONY KELLY A USAF helicopter at Cley following the crash. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A memorial is being unveiled this morning (Friday) to honour four airmen killed in a helicopter crash in north Norfolk on the third anniversary of their deaths.

Captains Christopher S Stover, 28, and Sean M Ruane, 31, Technical Support Sergeant Dale E Mathews, 37, and Staff Sergeant Afton M Ponce, 28, died on a training mission near Cley, in January 2014, after a flock of geese brought down the American military aircraft.

They were aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk, which was part of 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, when tragedy struck.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust is hosting a special dedication ceremony for the United States Air Force (USAF) memorial at its visitor centre, close to the crash site, in Cley.

The service is being conducted by Reverends Libby Dady, Rector of the Glaven Valley Benefice, and Phil Blamire, Priest-in-charge of the Weybourne Group of parishes, and is expected to be marked by a fly-past.

The memorial, which has been created by the East of England Co-op, is made of Royal Green Granite with ceramics of each of the four pilots produced from photographs supplied by the families. It also includes the regimental crest and a hand-etched picture of a 48th Fighter Wing helicopter.

Brendan Joyce, chief executive of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, said: “At the time of the accident, Norfolk Wildlife Trust was able to work closely with USAF, MOD, RAF, the local police and other agencies to help with the recovery operation. The visitor centre became a military operational base and our staff were on hand to give assistance and provide welcome refreshments. In the process, we became acquainted with the friends, colleagues and family of those who lost their lives and so shared in their grief. Our thoughts will remain with them. Therefore we feel it is a fitting tribute to lay a memorial stone at our visitor centre as a reminder to all.”

The memorial was crafted by local stonemasons H.L. Perfitt, who also hand carved the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Arboretum.

Stonemason Nick Hindle said: “We work on projects that will still be here long after we’ve gone. To be able to leave your mark on something, that is not just a memorial but a piece of art for all to see, cannot be beaten.”

EDP publisher Archant helped organise the ceremony in memory of what Editor Emeritus Nigel Pickover described as “four very special people... working for their belief in a better world”. And the gathering heard they will forever be remembered in what he added was a “very special part of the world”.

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