Wreckage including munitions was spread over a wide area of the
crash site in difficult terrain.
The helicopter, a Pave Hawk assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing based
at RAF Lakenheath air base, was performing a low-level training
mission along the Norfolk coast when it went down in marshland on
The cause of the crash, which occurred in a nature reserve near the
village of Cley next the Sea, was not known. The area is about 130
miles northeast of London.
"We will be working with our partners at the Ministry of Defence,
Air Accident Investigation Branch and U.S. Air Force to gather all
evidence from the scene and then recover the aircraft," said Chief
Superintendent Bob Scully of Norfolk Constabulary, the local police
"This is difficult terrain with marshland and tides coupled with
wreckage containing munitions covering a large area," he said in a
A 400-meter (quarter mile) area around the crash site remained
cordoned off to preserve public safety. No one on the ground was
thought to have been hurt, authorities said.
Earlier, the 48th Fighter Wing, which also flies F-15 fighter jets,
confirmed the deaths of all four airmen on board and said their
names would be released 24 hours after their next-of-kin had been
The Pave Hawk is made by Sikorsky Aircraft Co, a unit of United
According to the U.S. Air Force website, it is a modified version of
the Army Black Hawk and its primary mission is "to conduct day or
night operations into hostile environments to recover downed aircrew
or other isolated personnel during war".
RAF Lakenheath is home to Europe's only F-15 fighter wing.
[to top of second column]
Scully told reporters at Cley next the Sea that debris was scattered
across an area about the size of a football field. Most of the
debris was in marshland although some of it was vulnerable to high
tides and was being removed swiftly.
Scully said a coroner, who under English law will be responsible for
the investigation into the four deaths, was carrying a daylight
assessment and once he had given his consent, authorities would
arrange for the removal of the bodies.
"The situation that we have now is that we are obviously moving from
a potential rescue operation to one of preserving the scene and
carrying out an investigation," Scully told reporters.
"We are now working with the U.S. military and the RAF (Britain's
Royal Air Force) to assist in their investigation and ours at the
present time, and at some point we will hand over to the air
investigation side of the military, both UK and U.S."
A second helicopter, which had been taking part in the same training
exercise as the one that crashed, had landed at the site and was
still there, Scully said.
"It will be a matter for the investigation to determine whether or
not there was any causal link. My understanding is that apparently
not, but we don't know. And that's the important thing, we shouldn't
be speculating here," Scully said.
(Additional reporting and writing by Estelle Shirbon
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