LONDON, July 9 A U.S. military helicopter that
crashed during a training operation over rural England, killing
four crew members, was struck by a flock of geese, leaving the
pilot and co-pilot unconscious, an investigation concluded on
The HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 56th Rescue
Squadron based at the nearby U.S. air base RAF Lakenheath in
eastern England, went down in January in marshland near Cley
next the Sea on the north Norfolk coast, a rural area about 130
miles (209 km) northeast of London.
"The Accident Investigation Board President found by clear
and convincing evidence that multiple bird strikes caused the
mishap by rendering the mishap pilot and mishap co-pilot
unconscious and disabling the trim and flight path stabilization
systems," a U.S. Air Force statement said.
The helicopter had been conducting a training mission to
replicate the scenario of rescuing a downed F-16 jet pilot.
It was flying over Cley Marshes when a flock of geese,
probably startled by the noise, took off and struck the
aircraft. At least three birds smashed through the windscreen
and at least one also hit the nose, the report found.
With the pilots left unconscious and the stabilisation
system disabled, the helicopter crashed into the ground about
three seconds later.
All those on board: Captain Christopher Stover, Captain Sean
Ruane, Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews and Staff Sergeant Afton
Ponce, were killed.
The report added that the cost to the U.S. government was
estimated at just over $40 million.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)