Kennedy airman, crew die in crash

CAPT. SEAN M. RUANE


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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 Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter when it crashed about 6 p.m. near Salthouse on the Norfolk coast, the Air Force said in a news release.

Capt. Ruane and the other crew members, including Capt. Christopher Stover, 28, Tech. Sgt. Dale Mathews, 37, and Staff Sgt. Afton 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, used for combat search and rescue, was conducting a low-level training flight at the time of the crash, which remains under investigation, an Air Force spokesman said.

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 and was scheduled to return to the U.S. this year, his mother said. "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 or what caused the crash. "They haven't told me anything," she said. "I understand there are investigations. I just want to know."

The Norfolk Constabulary, which was in control of the investigation Wednesday evening, said in a news release that the crash area in the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Marshes Nature Reserve was roughly the size of a soccer field and that "a significant number" of bullets from the crashed helicopter were scattered across the site.

The bodies of the four crew members were to remain at the crash site Wednesday night. British authorities and the U.S. Air Force were evaluating "the safest and most respectful way of removing the deceased and the wreckage." Their removal could "disrupt evidence," the police said.

Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.


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