A second helicopter which landed on a Norfolk marsh following a fatal air accident has returned to its Suffolk base, the US Airforce (USAF) said.

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The Pave Hawk helicopter landed alongside an identical aircraft which crashed, killing all four crew members, near Cley-next-the-sea on January 7.

It had not been able to take off until now as investigators were concerned it may disturb evidence which could prove vital in establishing the cause of the crash.

Colonel Kyle Robinson, from 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, where the crew was based, said the helicopter returned to base at 4pm yesterday.

He added: “We have a team of highly-qualified officers working day in and day out to determine the cause of the accident. At this time we can’t speculate.”

The bodies of captains Christopher S. Stover and Sean M. Ruane; technical sergeant Dale E. Mathews; and female crew mate staff sergeant Afton M. Ponce, who all died in the crash, were flown back to the US over the weekend.

Col Robinson thanked UK civilian and military authorities for their help during the investigation and said US personnel had been overwhelmed by support from the community.

“I would like to thank you all for your warmth and kindness,” he added.

“We’ve seen your support in so many forms this past week as the wing has come together to support the families and members of the 56th Rescue Squadron.”

A cordon and no-fly zone over the site will remain in place to ensure the safety of the public, the recovery team and the investigators, he added.

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