UPDATE: New Prairie graduate among those killed in Air Force cra - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: New Prairie graduate among those killed in Air Force crash

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Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews (Courtesy: United States Air Force) Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews (Courtesy: United States Air Force)

Four airmen, including a New Prairie graduate, were killed when their Air Force helicopter crashed on the English coast Tuesday.

The Air Force identified the four as Capt. Christopher S. Stover, Capt. Sean M. Ruane, Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews, and Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce.

Reports indicate the Pave Hawk helicopter they were in slammed into the coastal marshes of eastern England during a training mission on the Norfolk coast. 

The helicopter was based at nearby the Royal Air Force station in Lakenheath.

"We continue to think of the loved ones who are experiencing such a tragic, sudden loss," said Col. Kyle Robinson, the commander of the air wing. "The Liberty Wing feels as though it has lost members of its family, and we stand by to support one another and these Airmen's families during this difficult time."

Dale E. Mathews is a graduate of New Prairie High School. FOX28 spoke with a couple of his close friends Wednesday.

Cathy and Lisa Rea are sisters-in-law, who were very close to Sergeant Dale Mathews. They went to school together at New Prairie High. Their families have kept in close touch. They are devastated by the news of Mathews's death.

"Even though he wasn't with us on a daily basis, he was miles away, but he was still part of our daily life. Whether it was talking, or just in thought. It was just natural for us to all think of him and pop him into the conversation," says Cathy Rea.

Cathy and Lisa say Mathews is a husband and father.

He's been serving in England the last four years and was only a couple months away from coming home.

"He was planning to be home in two months and move back to this area. He wanted to be out by the lake so he could kite surf. That was a new hobby he picked up in England," says Cathy.

Lisa says, "He's our best friend and he's been gone for 20 years serving his country. We were ready to have him home and make new memories."

Cathy and Lisa say there aren't words to express how proud they are of their friend, but they know his bravery will live on in the example he's set for not only his children, but for Cathy's as well.

"It's like our kids have a real-life superhero that they know, that's out there keeping us safe. He's not just going after bad guys. He's going in there, trying to get the people who are hurt," says Cathy.

Mathew's friends say they'll remember him for the light he brought into a room and will always cherish the many memories made over the years. Above all, they'll miss his friendship that's never wavered.

"I  don't think he with his larger than life personality realized how many lives he truly touched. You read through all the Facebook posts and there's so many people who loved him," says Lisa.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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