Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Christopher Stover

Vancouver, Washington

January 7, 2014

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
28 Air Force Capt

 

 

From The Columbian columbian.com 01/08/14:

Evergreen grad killed in helicopter crash in England
By Wire services and The Columbian
Published: January 8, 2014, 12:17 PM
Air Force Capt. Christopher Stover, 28, who grew up in Vancouver and graduated from Evergreen High School in 2004, was one of four crew members killed in a helicopter crash in England on Tuesday.

Stover was serving a three-year deployment in England, and did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to his family. He was married Dec. 1, 2012, to his wife, Sarah, who lives in England. His parents, Maribel and Richard Stover, live in Vancouver.

Capt. Sean M. Ruane, Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews and Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce were the other HH-60G aircrew members killed in the crash on the Norfolk coast Tuesday evening.

Stover was a pilot on the Pave Hawk helicopter, which was performing a low-level training mission when the crash happened, according to the Royal Air Force Lakenheath website.

Stover graduated in the top 5 percent of his class at Evergreen, earning a 4.0 grade point average. He earned a number of scholarships to various universities.

Patti McMaster, who teaches social studies classes at Evergreen High School, taught Stover as a freshman and as a senior. She remembers him not only as a student, but also as an alumnus who would regularly return to visit after graduating.

“He was one of those kids who when he would come to town would always find time to come visit the old teacher and take me out to lunch,” she said.

Stover was a competitor on the school’s “We The People,” a constitution team that rigorously studied the supreme law for competitions at the state level. He will be honored at the "We The People" state competition in Olympia this weekend, said Evergreen Public Schools spokeswoman Gail Spolar. Participants will wear green and gold remembrance ribbons.

For the class, McMaster said that she required her students to do some sort of community service.

“I think that is very clear that he did that the rest of his life,” she said. “He’s just this kind, caring, nurturing kid.”

McMaster described Stover as “brilliant,” adding that he had taken advanced high school math as a sixth grader, so by the time he was a junior at Evergreen he had completed all of their math courses and many classes at Clark Community College.

“He’s so outstanding and to think where he might have led us and what he might have ended up doing … it’s a true tragedy,” she said. “It’s devastating.”

During high school, he ran cross country, and later, as a senior at the Air Force Academy, Stover ran in the 2008 Boston Marathon, placing 217th in the race with a time of 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 47 seconds. It was the second time he had completed the race and was believed to be the top finisher among runners with ties to the Clark County area.

The Pave Hawk helicopter slammed into the eastern coast during a low-level training mission Tuesday evening. Teams combing the marshes have been hampered by bullets scattered across the scene.

"We have currently cordoned off about 400 square meters (500 square yards) of the marshland area," said Chief Superintendent Bob Scully of Norfolk Police. "The crash site itself I would describe as an area of debris on difficult terrain on the marsh."

Local authorities are carrying out a daylight investigation. The aircraft was assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing.

Pave Hawks — a modified version of the better-known Black Hawks — are mostly used for combat search-and-rescue missions, mainly to recover downed air crew members or other personnel during war and other hostile situations. They typically practice flying low and fast, often at altitudes of hundreds, rather than thousands, of feet.

Frum The Guardian theguardian.com 01/08/14:

Norfolk US helicopter crash dead named
Investigations begin into cause of Norfolk tragedy in which four US airmen died, as years of complaints about low flights emerge
Josh Halliday, Ewen MacAskill and Matthew Weaver
The Guardian, Wednesday 8 January 2014 20.43 GMT
Investigations are under way into the causes of the crash of a US military helicopter on the Norfolk coast that killed all four crew members, as it emerged that residents had complained for years about low-flying aircraft in the area.

The helicopter was on a routine training exercise when it ditched into saltmarshes near the village of Cley-next-the-Sea on Tuesday night, throwing live ammunition across the popular beauty spot.

As two investigations into the fatal accident began, tributes were paid to the four airmen, who were last night named as Captain Christopher Stover, Captain Sean Ruane, Technical Sgt Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt Afton Ponce.

Colonel Kyle Robinson, commander of the men's unit at RAF Lakenheath, in Suffolk, said: "The loss of our Liberty Wing brethren is felt deeply across RAF Lakenheath. I can only imagine the hurt and sorrow felt by the family and friends of these airmen. You are in our hearts and minds."

The aircraft, an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter used by US Special Forces in rescue missions, had flown from Lakenheath for training manoeuvres near a nature reserve on the Norfolk coast. The area, popular with birdwatchers, is used often by low-flying military aircraft, with residents describing how they had seen helicopters and planes fly feet from the ground in training manoeuvres, sometimes at night.
The MP for North Norfolk, Norman Lamb, said he was concerned about the training exercises but expressed sympathy for the families of the servicemen. "This will be a trauma for everybody in that local community," he told Sky News.

"Obviously my initial instinct is one of sorrow and sympathy for the families of [those] who have lost their lives. This is obviously a personal tragedy for those families. Beyond that we have to look at what lessons need to be learned."

Wendy Wyatt, a former councillor who lives near the crash site, said she had complained several times about low-flying aircraft that once came so close to her cottage she exchanged waves with a pilot.

"They are going too low. I don't know whether they are allowed to but something needs to be done," she said. "It's quite frightening thinking they are carrying guns and bullets. You can only complain so many times."

Richard Kelham, chair of Cley parish council, said flying so close to a breeding ground for birds was an "accident waiting to happen" and had prompted complaints to nearby RAF bases. Another councillor, Jennifer Murray, said regulations had been introduced 15 years ago to order the aircraft to fly higher when using the area.

Brendan Joyce, chief executive of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which runs the Cley Marshes nature reserve, said the trust had lobbied the Ministry of Defence and local MPs about low flying training missions in the area a year ago.

"It has been quite upsetting for visitors for visitors and residents to be staring down the barrel of an Apache helicopter gun," he said. "Our thoughts are the with families of the bereaved airman, so it doesn't seem to be the right time to be raising those concerns again."

But the Labour MEP Richard Howitt, whose constituency includes the crash zone, warned against rushing to "knee-jerk reactions" or ending military training exercises in the area. "We are talking about one of the most tranquil places in Britain but it is punctured with the occasional noise of these training exercises. It's accepted because it is tradition and people understand that they are done in defence of us all," he said.

"I think we should be careful about kneejerk reactions because the pilots are involved in extreme work in disasters and need to be able to undertake what look to us to be daring and risky manoeuvres as part of their training."

The helicopter in the crash is the kind used by US special forces. The helicopter crews practise extensively, flying as low as possible at night using night-vision goggles. Flying low provides an element of surprise as well as helping to avoid radar detection.

Debris was spread over an area the size of a football pitch yesterday morning, suggesting a crash at high speed rather than the helicopter hovering and plummeting to the ground. Causes of similar crashes have ranged from hitting birds to a sudden bright light interfering with night goggles.

A no-fly zone remained in place over the site on Wednesday night, while police collected evidence necessary for an inquest. Such a hearing is not likely to be held until much later this year.

A separate investigation will be carried out by a US military team, which on Wednesday asked for help from UK military personnel. The US-led team is required to report its initial findings in about 30 days to the US command and the families of the victims.

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