UH-1F Eglin AFB 1966   UH-1F DMAFB, AZ 1967   UH-1F Malmstrom AFB 1967   UH-1F Eglin AFB 1969   UH-1F Edwards AFB 1971   UH-1F Ellisworth AFB 1971   UH-1N FT. Bragg 1973   HH-1H Hill AFB 1974   UH-1F F.E. Warren 1975   UH-1F Ellsworth AFB 1982   UH-1F Whiteman AFB 1982   UH-1N Bahamas 1984   UH-1 Ellsworth AFB 1986   UH-1N Edwards-Jan-1991   UH-1N Edwards-Oct-1991   UH-1N Kirtland AFB 1996   UH-1N 1998   UH-1N F.E. Warren AFB 1999   UH-1N Kirtland AFB 2002   TH-lH Ft. Rucker 2009   UH-1N Malmstrom AFB 2010   UH-1N Kirtland AFB 2011   UH-1N Minot AFB 2013   CH-3C Malmstrom AFB 1965   CH-3C Sheppard AFB Mar. 1967   CH-3 Sheppard AFB Nov. 1967   CH-3E Midair in Laos 1970   HH-3E Korea 1973   HH-3E Elmendorf AFB 1974   HH-3E Iceland 1979   CH-3E Patrick AFB, 1984   HH-3E Osan 1984   HH-3E 29-Palms 1988   HH-3E Kadena 1989   CH-3E DMAFB 1989   H-5G Ladd AFB 1951   H-5H Maxwell AFB 1953   H-5 New York 1958   H-13G Niagara Falls 1955   H-13 Bryan AFB, TX 1957   H-19A San Marcos 1952   H-19A O'Neill, NB. 1953   H-19B Alexandria, LA. 1954   H-19B Austria 1954   H-19B France 1954   H-19B Korea 1954   H-19B March AFB 1954   H-19B Rhine Main AB 1955   H-19B Eglin AFB 1955   H-19 Skaneateles Lake, NY 1956   H-19 Ashiya Japan 1957   H-19 Edwards AFB 1957   H-19 Niagra Falls 1959   H-19 Sheppard   H-19B Loring AFB 1960   H-19 Beal AFB 1963   H-19 Larson AFB 1963   H-19 Saigon, RVN 1964   YH-21 Thule AB 1953   H-21 Goose Bay 1954   H-21A San Marcos TX 1955   H-21B Tennesse 1955   H-21 San Diego, CA 1956   H-21 Alaska 1957   H-21 Goose Bay 1958.   SH-21 Greenland 1958   H-21 Elmendorf AFB 1958   H-21 Dugway Proving Grnd. 1958   H-21 Goose Bay 1959   H-21 Greenland 1959   CH-21B Otis AFB 1959   H-21 Indian Springs AAF 1961   H-21 Luke AFB 1961   H-23B Moody AFB 1953   H-43A James Connally AFB 1959   H-43B Loring AFB 1961   H-43B Westover AFB 1961   HH-43B MacDill AFB, FL 1964   HH-43B Stead AFB 1965   HH-43B Clark AB, PI 1966   H-43 Sheppard AFC, TX 1966   HH-43B Phan Rang 1968   HH-43B MacDill AFB 1969   HH-43B Hill AFB 1973   HH-53C Eglin AFB 1969   CH-53C Germany 1975   CH-53C Germany 1976   HH-53C Woodbridge 1977   HH-53C Kadena AB 1979   HH-53B Kirtland AFB 1981   HH-53C Kirtland AFB 1982   MH-53 Philippines 1984   CH-53C Pope AFB 1984   HH-53C Hickam AFB, HI 1985   HH-53C Hill AFB 1986   HH-53H Nellis AFB 1986   MH-53J Korea 1995   HH-53B Vance AFB 1996   HH-53B Cherry Point 1998   MH-53J Ft. Bragg 1999   MH-53M RAF Mildenhall 2000   MH-53 Durango CO 2002   MH-53M USNS Kanawha 2002   MH-53M Afghanistan 2003   MH-53M FOL Hurlburt Fld 2003   MH-53M Kuwait 2003   MH-53M Hurlburt Fld. 2007   UH-60A Pope AFB 1987   HH-60G New York 1991   MH-60G Antigua 1991   HH-60G Great Salt Lake 1992   HH-60G Davis-Monthan AFB 1994   HH-60G Korea 1994   HH-60G Indian Springs 1998   HH-60G Al Jabar AB 1999   HH-60G Avon Park 2001   HH-60G Mt. Hood 2002   HH-60G Afghanistan 2002   HH-60G Afghanistan 2003   HH-60G Afghanistan 2004   HH-60G Angel Fire, NM 2005   HH-60G Kandahar 2007   HH-60G Afghanistan 2009   HH-60G Okinawa 2013   HH-60G Lakenheath 2014   HH-60G Lakenheath 2014 1   HH-60G Lakenheath 2014 2   Ellsworth AFB 1955   Hawaii crash 1963   Patuxent River NAS 1960   Randolph AFB 1957   Spokane River, WA 1959   Tyndall AFB 1961   Wright-Patterson 1956   Spokane River 1972  


Cley Next The Sea, Norfolk, United Kingdom

07 January 2014




HH-60G, TAIL NUMBER 88-26109









CONDUCTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION 51-503Under 10 U.S.C. 2254(d) the opinion of the accident investigator as to the cause of, or the factors contributing to, the accident set forth in the accident investigation report, if any, may not be considered as evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding arising from the accident, nor may such information be considered an admission of liability of the United States or by any person referred to in those conclusions or statements.



HH-60G, TAIL NUMBER 88-26109


7 JANUARY 2014

On 7 January 2014, at approximately 1805 local time (L), the mishap aircraft (MA), an HH-60G, Tail Number 88-26109, assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron, 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath, United Kingdom (UK), experienced multiple bird strikes during a training mission and impacted privately-owned, grass-covered marshland near Cley next the Sea, UK. The four crewmembers, Capt. Sean Ruane (P), Capt. Christopher Stover (CP), TSgt. Dale Mathews (FE) and SSgt. Afton Ponce (AG), were fatally injured in the mishap. There were no civilian injuries or fatalities. The MA was destroyed upon impact. The cost to the United States government is estimated at $40,302,061. Damage to private property consisted of minimal burning to grass at the crash site.


The purpose of the training mission was to conduct a nighttime rescue scenario of a downed F-16 pilot. The training mission included two aircraft, the flight lead aircraft and the MA, collectively known as the mishap formation MF. All members of the flight lead crew and mishap crew wore night vision goggles. The MF departed RAF Lakenheath at 1733L and proceeded to an initial point to verify the status of the simulated downed pilot and conduct threat analysis. Strong winds pushed the MF toward a populated area. To avoid causing a noise disturbance, the MF reestablished its initial point to the north near the coastline.


The MA departed the new initial point at 1804L, flying east at approximately 110 feet above ground level and 110 knots indicated air speed toward a landing zone near Salthouse, UK. The flight path took the MF over Cley Marshes in the Norfolk Wildlife Trust near Cley next the Sea. A flock of geese took flight from Cley Marshes, likely startled by the noise of the approaching helicopters, and struck the MA. At least three geese penetrated the windscreen, rendering the mishap pilot and mishap co-pilot unconscious, and at least one goose struck the mishap aerial gunner in the performance of special mission aviator duties, rendering the mishap areal gunner unconscious. In addition, at least one goose hit the nose of the MA, disabling the Trim and Flight Path Stabilization systems. With the mishap pilot and mishap co-pilot unconscious and the Trim and Flight Path Stabilization disabled, the MAs cyclic stick, which controls pitch and roll of the aircraft, was free to move randomly. The MA banked left to a point where it had no vertical lift. Without vertical lift, and without pilot input to correct the left roll, the MA was not able to remain airborne or maintain controlled flight. The MA impacted the ground at 1805Lapproximately three seconds after being struck by the geese.


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.



On 7 January 2014, four Airmen from the 56th Rescue Squadron took flight on a training exercise in an HH-60G Pave Hawk. As the moon lit the English countryside, tragedy claimed their lives. These four Airmen were known to those they loved as brother, son, father, husband, sister, daughter, mother, wife, and friend.


The Air Force has many missions. Its fighters provide close air support to troops advancing on the ground. Its bombers drop destructive payloads on enemy assets. But the unique mission of the 56th Rescue Squadron is to search and rescueto seek out and save the lost, the wounded, and the fallen, day or night, in inclement weather, and in the face of hostile forces. These four Airmen took flight on 7 January 2014 to be ready, at a moments notice and under any circumstance, to find and recover those in need of refuge.


Our Airmans Creed calls on those in uniform to never leave and Airman behind. Each day, these four Airmen practiced and applied the craft of rescue. Together they are credited with saving hundreds of lives. Those they loved should stand tall knowing that these four embodied all that it means to be an Airman.


Although their lives ended in an unexpected instant, their sacrifice did not spark in that momentit crescendoed over lifetimes of dedication to serving their country and those they loved. Their legacies will be found in the countless hours supporting the mission of the Air Force, in the late nights helping a son or daughter with homework, and in the laughter shared with friends.


Their dedication shall forever be in our memories through the Rescue Motto, These things we do that others may live.