U.S. Air Force helicopter crashes on Britain's eastern coast; 4 dead

By Janet Stobart and Carol J. Williams

Los Angeles Times

LONDON -- A U.S. Air Force helicopter on a training mission out of an eastern British base crashed in a bird sanctuary Tuesday night, killing all four U.S. crew members on board, British and U.S. military sources reported.

The HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter went down near the village of Cley-next-the-Sea, in coastal Norfolk County, shortly before 7 p.m., the BBC quoted a U.S. Air Force spokesman from nearby RAF Lakenheath as saying.

The 48th Air Wing of the U.S. Air Force tweeted: "We can confirm that one of our HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters was involved in an incident during a training mission outside Cley-Next-The-Sea."

There was no initial determination of what caused the crash.

No casualties on the ground were reported, but pedestrians and motorists were being diverted from the area because live ammunition was on board the helicopter when it crashed, the BBC said.

Michael Girling told the Daily Telegraph that he saw the helicopter go down.

“At first I thought it had landed on the beach but then realized it had ditched in the marsh,” Girling said. “There are flashing lights everywhere. No one is allowed anywhere near the area.”

The Pave Hawk, a modified Blackhawk, is used mostly for search and rescue operations and personnel extractions from hostile environments, the Air Force says in its fact sheet on the aircraft.

RAF Lakenheath is home to the 48th Air Wing's Pave Hawks, as well as to squadrons of F-15 Eagle tactical fighter planes and F-15E Strike Eagle dual-role fighters.