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EDITIONS
Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 04:37 GMT 05:37 UK
Navy investigators head for crash scene
Lynx helicopter
One crew member was rescued from the Lynx
Air accident investigators are travelling to the US to try to establish the cause of a Royal Navy helicopter crash in the Atlantic.

Two British crew members were killed when the Lynx aircraft came down 200 miles off the coast of Virginia earlier this week.

The bodies of Lieutenants Rod Skidmore, 39, and Jenny Lewis, 25, have not yet been found but it is presumed they perished when the helicopter hit the water.


As far as we are aware there is no issue of safety with the Lynx

MoD

A third crew member, Paul Hanson, a petty officer working as a photographer, escaped with only minor injuries after being thrown clear as the craft hit the water.

The helicopter was attached to warship HMS Richmond and the crew was returning from an exercise when tragedy struck.

It is thought the most likely cause was engine failure.

A Royal Navy spokesman said that "no stone will be left unturned" in the investigation.

No known defects

"We're dealing here with the human condition and tragedy. People want to know what happened," he said.

Lt Skidmore was a father of two, while Lt Lewis was single.

Ministry of Defence welfare staff have been providing their families with support.

The helicopter is believed to be lying in 4,000m of water and an MoD spokesman said a salvage operation could be possible.

"The Board of Inquiry is going to be joining the ship to interview the photographer who survived and anyone who has had anything to do with what happened," the spokesman said.


Rod was the consummate professional, who had been in the business for a long time

CO Tony Cramp
"We have been asked about safety. As far as we are aware, there is no issue of safety with the Lynx or indication about defects which could be proven in other aircraft."

Colleagues on the Portsmouth-based Richmond, which has been on an annual training exercise since Easter, held a service on Thursday near their colleagues' last reported position.

A white Royal Navy ensign was thrown into the water as crew members, the ship's padre and commanding officers looked on.

Lt Lewis's mother, Jo Lewis, said her daughter "died doing the job she loved" and that the Navy was her life.

'Professional aviators'

Senior officers at the flyers' base in Yeovilton, Somerset, also praised the crew.

Commanding Officer Tony Cramp said: "The pair of them were extremely diligent, professional aviators.

"Rod was the consummate professional, who had been in the business for a long time and who helped the pilots to be where they are now."

Lt Lewis was one of three women from 40 members of 815 Naval Air Squadron and was said to be talented with a bright future ahead of her.

She made an emergency call at low altitude about 40 miles from the ship before the crash.

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