Montour High graduate dies in Air Force helicopter crash in England
Before he made it to Montour High School, Sean Ruane knew he wanted to be a military pilot. Years later, with his first flight aboard a helicopter, he was certain jets wouldn't be in his future.
“He told me he chose helicopters for the rescue aspect. He said he wanted to help our troops,” Michael Ruane of Kennedy said Wednesday about his son. “As he put it, he wanted to pull their fat out of the fire.”
Ruane, 31, an Air Force captain, died on Tuesday during a training exercise on the Norfolk coast of England, where he was stationed at Royal Air Force Station Lakenheath. A HH-6DG Pave Hawk helicopter crashed in a nature reserve, killing all four crew members. Others who died were Capt. Christopher S. Stover of Vancouver, Wash., a fellow pilot, along with Tech. Sgt. Dale E. Mathews of Rolling Prairie, Ind., and Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce, whose hometown was not immediately available. Mathews and Ponce were special mission aviators.
The crash is under investigation.
“We continue to think of the loved ones who are experiencing such a tragic, sudden loss,” Col. Kyle Robinson, the 48th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement. “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.”
Ruane graduated from Montour High School in 2000. He passed on a potential appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., where years before his father had taken him to attend a flight camp program for high school students.
Father again accompanied son before the start of his first semester at Embry-Riddle.
“‘Dad, I've dreamed about this all my life,'” Michael Ruane recalled his son telling him that day. “It meant so much for us to help him achieve his dreams.”
After college, the Air Force stationed Ruane in Florida, Oklahoma and Alabama. He was assigned to England in 2011, the year he married Rachel Roderer of Stewartsville, N.J.
Air Force officials on Tuesday notified Ruane's wife of his death at the rural English farmhouse where they lived with their 14-month-old son, Liam.
Michael Ruane, 60, received the call he had feared during his son's five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, while on the job at Shenango Inc. The elder Ruane has worked at the Neville Island coke plant for 41 years, and his son spent college breaks working there on the ovens. His guard was down, and he was not expecting such a call, he said.
“We were happy when he was in England,” the teary-eyed father said, photographs of his son strewn before him on the dining-room table.
A just-in-case letter his son wrote sat folded nearby.
In it, Ruane joked about having a Yuengling beer with friends he hadn't seen in a while, detailed some of his final wishes and told his father that he was his hero.
“He made me a better man,” Michael Ruane said.
Ruane wrote similar letters to his mother, Marcia, and sister, Katie.
The family soon will fly to England to attend a memorial service. They hope to have a similar service in Pittsburgh but haven't finalized the details.
“He loved his family; that was first,” Michael Ruane said. “He loved his country. He felt a duty to serve. And he loved life.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh Regatta will go on without boats, water events
- Rossi: Rutherford shines as old boss pouts
- LaBar: What’s killing professional wrestling
- Crane tips over, smashes into roof of building at Pitt
- Lower Burrell couple charged with 6 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty
- Former Jeannette coach held for trial on charges of assault on teen girls
- Shaken by economic, political turmoil, MLB forsaking Venezuela
- Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Tigers
- Hurricanes owner rips Rutherford, Penguins
- Fireworks displays costly, but W. Pa. communities feel obligated
- Young Nebraska girl’s organs give 2 Pittsburgh-area boys a chance to live