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Tragic US airman only in UK four weeks

PUBLISHED: 12:11 05 June 2008 | UPDATED: 21:07 07 July 2010

An American serviceman who was killed in a motorbike crash in Suffolk had only been stationed in the country for four weeks, it emerged yesterday.

Benjamin Gonzales, 24, from Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision between his motorcycle and a Mazda 6 car at Newmarket on Tuesday night.

An American serviceman who was killed in a motorbike crash in Suffolk had only been stationed in the country for four weeks, it emerged yesterday.

Benjamin Gonzales, 24, from Texas, was pronounced dead at the scene of the collision between his motorcycle and a Mazda 6 car at Newmarket on Tuesday night.

Police made an appeal for witnesses yesterday following the crash on Cheveley Road at about 4.30pm.

Senior Airman Gonzales was stationed at RAF Lakenheath and worked as an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the United States Air Force's 48th Fighter Wing.

A spokeswoman for the base said the airman had only been in the UK since May 8 and had recently celebrated his 24th birthday.

Brig Gen John Hesterman III, 48th Fighter Wing commander, said: “This is a tragedy and my deepest condolences go out to Senior Airman Gonzalez's family and friends. His loss will not only be felt throughout RAF Lakenheath, but also throughout the Air Force,” he said.

The spokeswoman added that the base was a “close-knit community” and the death would be felt with great sadness. A memorial service will be held on Monday.

The fatal collision came just hours before the Suffolk Roadsafe Board met to discuss the safety of more than 17,000 Americans in the county. The board, which includes representatives from both RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, met at Ipswich yesterday to discuss ways of improving awareness of road safety amongst American personnel.

Officials from the two bases said that the number of fatal road crashes and offences committed by USAF personnel on Suffolk roads had reduced dramatically over the last four years following the introduction of a range of courses and education programmes for drivers, including the Airmen Against Drunk Driving scheme.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk Police said an inquest into the death of Senior Airman Gonzales would be opened in due course. Anyone with information is asked to contact PC Terry Beddington at the Bury St Edmunds roads policing unit on 01284 774100.

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