Air Force captain from Kennedy dies in helicopter crash

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An Air Force captain from Kennedy was one of four crew members killed in a helicopter crash Tuesday evening in eastern England.

Capt. Sean M. Ruane, 31, a graduate of Montour High School, was one of two pilots aboard the HH-60G helicopter when it crashed about 6 p.m. near Salthouse on the Norfolk coast, the Air Force said in a news release.

Ruane and the other crew members, including Capt. Christopher S. Stover, 28, Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews, 37, and Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce, 28, were active duty airmen assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron at the Royal Air Force's Lakenheath base. Their hometowns were not immediately available.

The helicopter was conducting a low-level training flight at the time of the crash, which is under investigation, an Air Force spokesman said.

"We continue to think of the loved ones who are experiencing such a tragic, sudden loss," said Col. Kyle Robinson, 48th Fighter Wing commander, in a news release. "The Liberty Wing feels as though it has lost members of its family, and we stand by to support one another and these airmen's families during this difficult time."

Capt. Ruane's mother, Marcia Ruane, of Kennedy, said he leaves behind a wife, Rachel, and a 1-year-old son, Liam.

Capt. Ruane had been on three deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. He was scheduled to return to the U.S. this year, his mother said.

"He would have been coming this year and he couldn't wait to come home," she said.

Mrs. Ruane said her son played soccer and saxophone in the high school band before heading off to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

He was working on a master's degree and wanted to teach history, Mrs. Ruane said.

"He was just a well-liked, humble but popular person," she said. "He was a good kid, a good son and a wonderful brother."

Mrs. Ruane said it remains unclear whether her son or Capt. Stover was flying the helicopter when it crashed. Another helicopter was following at the time, she said.

"They haven't told me anything," she said. "I understand there's investigations. I just want to know."

Robert Zullo: or 412-263-3909.

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