Birmingham serviceman among five killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash

One of five servicemen killed in a helicopter crash in Southern Afghanistan is from the Midlands it has been confirmed.

A Lynx Mk9a helicopter flies over Afghanistan. Photo: MoD/PA
A Lynx Mk9a helicopter flies over Afghanistan. Photo: MoD/PA

RAF Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan was from Birmingham.

He was killed alongside Captain Thomas Clarke from the Army Air Corps; Warrant Officer Class 2 Spencer Faulkner from the Army Air Corps; Corporal James Walters from the Army Air Corps and Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas from the Intelligence Corps.

Their aircraft went down in Kandahar province during a routine flight yesterday morning.

The Ministry of Defence has denied claims by the Taliban that insurgents shot the helicopter down, with initial investigations indicating a ‘tragic accident’ rather than enemy action.

Group Captain Richard Maddison, Station Commander at RAF Odiham, said: "I am extremely saddened to hear of the loss of Captain Thomas Clarke, Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan, Warrant Officer Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters, all who served at Royal Air Force Odiham.

"My deepest sympathies are with their families and friends at this most difficult time, and also with the family of Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas, who was not from Royal Air Force Odiham but who was also on the Lynx aircraft."

The deaths bring the number of British forces personnel killed in the conflict in Afghanistan to 453.

Flight Lieutenant Chauhan, 29, was on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer when he died.

Known as Rak to his friends, he was described as ‘bright, articulate, charismatic and loyal’.

His commanding officer said: "Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan was a hugely influential and well respected officer whose enthusiasm and professionalism permeated every aspect of his work.

"Charming, funny and sharp as a tack, he was immensely proud of his role and of his service.

"An exceptional officer, he clearly had a bright future ahead of him. His loss has devastated the station and our thoughts and prayers are very much with his family and friends".

Tributes have been paid to the other men who were killed in the crash.

Captain Clarke, 30, from Cowbridge in Wales, was described as a ‘rising star’ and a man who was ‘full of life and immensely committed to his soldiers and friends’.

Warrant Officer Faulkner, 38, was an ‘experienced aviator, loving husband and hugely dedicated father to two children’ who had been deployed to Afghanistan on numerous occasions.

Corporal Walters, 36, known as Bungle, was a ‘highly respected’ junior non-commissioned officer and ‘consummate professional’ who had deployed to Afghanistan on numerous occasions.

Lance Corporal Thomas, 26, from Brecon in Powys, Mid Wales, was ‘young, enthusiastic and highly capable.

An investigation led by the Military Aviation Authority is under way to establish the cause of the crash, but the rest of the Lynx aircraft deployed in Afghanistan have not been grounded.

After paying tribute to the victims, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "Lynx Mk 9A helicopters have a good operational safety record and commanders have judged that it is safe for the fleet to continue to operate while the investigation is carried out."

The crash caused the third biggest single loss of life of British troops since the conflict in Afghanistan began.