PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A local man was on board a U.S. Air Force helicopter that crashed on the English Coast on Tuesday. Investigators still have no answers as to why.
Handsome and smart. Those who loved 31-year-old Capt. Sean Ruane say he had a Tom Cruise smile that would light up a room.
“It’s a big loss big loss for everybody,” says Patty Meyer, his aunt.
Family gathered around the dining room table. Mike and Marcia Ruane learned of their son’s death after a knock on the door of their Kennedy Township home Tuesday night.
The Montour High School graduate was at the top of his class after his Air Force fixed-wing training. He could have his pick of assignments. He chose helicopters and England.
“That’s why he was in the rescue squadron, helicopter rescue. He wanted to help people,” says his uncle, Rick Meyer.
Capt. Ruane was on a low-altitude flight Tuesday when they crashed near a little village and a nature reserve about 130 miles northeast of London.
The helicopter was carrying live ammunition, so it may take investigators a few days to sort out what happened.
The military says the helicopter crashed at about 6 p.m. local time near Salthouse on the Norfolk coast.
Authorities cordoned off flooded marshes to remove the bodies of the four who were killed.
Bernard Bishop, a Norfolk Wildlife Trust warden, says conditions are difficult because the marsh flooded twice in recent weeks.
The aircraft was based at the nearby Royal Air Force station in Lakenheath.
Britain’s Met Office said that nearby Weybourne reported wind gusts of 36 mph at the time of the crash, though sustained winds were weaker.
Capt. Ruane served three tours of duty in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan.
”All of his tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, he never complained, even the time away from home,” Rick said.
He was stationed at the Lakenheath Air Force Base where he lived with his wife, Rachel, and their 14-month-old son, Liam.
“They were just getting started in their life. Like his uncle said before, he loved life and he loved being in the military. He loved flying. He loved protecting his country,’ says Patty.
And Capt. Ruane dearly loved the son he was just getting to know.
‘What a wonderful, giving person his father was,” says Patty.
Like many military men, Capt. Ruane wrote letters to his family just in case. They opened those letters this morning.
A statement released named those killed as Captain Christopher Stover, Captain Sean Ruane, Technical Sergeant Dale Mathews and Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce.