Suffolk airman in fatal crash

An American airbase defended its “stringent” driver training procedures last night after it emerged that a Suffolk-based airman had been killed in a six-vehicle pile-up on the A14.

An American airbase defended its “stringent” driver training procedures last night after it emerged that a Suffolk-based airman had been killed in a six-vehicle pile-up on the A14.

RAF Mildenhall yesterday confirmed that a member of its 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron had died on the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire border in the early hours of Wednesday.

The airman, who has not yet been named, was travelling eastbound when his white Nissan Almera car was involved in a collision with a lorry at 4pm at Snailwell, near Newmarket.

Cambridgeshire police have launched an investigation into the fatal crash, which caused gridlock on the A14 for more than eight hours. The US Air Force airman was pronounced dead at the scene. The drivers of the four lorries and Fiat car that were also involved were uninjured.

Second Lt Kathleen Ferrero, spokes-man for RAF Mildenhall, yesterday said no more details would be released until 48 hours after the airman's next of kin had been informed. She added that US motorists had to undergo a number of practical and theory tests before being allowed to drive on British roads and over the last two years 500 personnel had undertaken an advanced course run by UK driving instructors.

“Since October 2003, driving restrictions and training have been much more stringent and the accident rate has gone down tremendously. Since October 2003, there have been 20 accidents and four have been classed as fatalities,” she said.

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A Suffolk coroner pledged to write to the wing commanders at Mildenhall and Lakenheath earlier this year to ensure that lessons had been learnt following the deaths of two airmen, who died in head-on collisions while driving on the wrong side of the road and over the drink-drive limit.

Senior Airman Julious Hawkins, 25, from RAF Mildenhall's 100th Maintenance Squadron, died in a crash on the A14 near Bury St Edmunds on October 6 last year; Flt Cdr John Biram, 27, of the 48th Munitions Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, died on December 23 last year on the A1304 in Newmarket.

A review of training procedures for American drivers was launched at the time of the tragedies. A string of fatal road traffic collisions in 2003 prompted the two US bases to ban personnel and their families from overtaking on seven roads in the region.

Earlier this month, 56 Suffolk-based US personnel appeared at Sudbury Magistrates' Court in just one day to face speeding charges.

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