Investigators trying to piece together what caused a US Air Force Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter to crash in the UK on 7 January are working within a debris field “the size of a football pitch”, according to local police. All four crew members from the service’s 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, died in the accident, which occurred within a nature reserve at Cley next the Sea on the north Norfolk coast.
“The scene is being assessed ‘in situ’, and the bodies of the deceased will be removed once this has taken place,” a Norfolk police statement issued on 8 January says. Some debris which was found close to the beach was moved yesterday evening, it adds, to prevent it from being removed by the tide.
Further aircraft recovery and site clearance activities will take longer, it says, noting that “a significant number of bullets from the crashed aircraft remain scattered across the area.” Used for personnel recovery and combat search and rescue duties, the HH-60G is equipped with two door-mounted machine guns.
New images of the crash site show a small section of the destroyed aircraft on a grassy area, with smaller items of wreckage scattered across a shingle dune, where an accompanying Pave Hawk landed shortly after the crash. This aircraft also remains in place, as investigation work by the police and UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch continues.
The USAF says the aircraft were taking part in a low-level training mission when the accident happened.