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Hundreds line route for procession for body of Air Force pilot

Hundreds of people gathered along a procession route in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week to welcome home a newlywed pilot who was killed when his Air Force fighter jet crashed off the UK coast. 

First lieutenant Kenneth ‘Kage’ Allen, 27, was taking part in a four-jet formation just moments before his F15C Eagle smashed into the North Sea off Yorkshire in the UK on June 15. 

Allen’s body was returned to his home state of Utah on Friday. 

Family members, friends and community members lined a route that began at the Salt Lake City International Airport and ended at the Russon Mortuary and Crematory in Farmington.

Most attendees held American flags as they welcomed Allen home. Service members saluted the fallen pilot as the white hearse carrying his body passed by. 

The hearse was escorted by Patriot Guard Riders, a group whose members attend the funerals of soldiers and first responders at the invitation of a decedent’s family, as well as dozens of police officers from multiple agencies.  

Meanwhile, F-35 Lightning II planes flew overhead to honor Allen during the procession. 

One image showed the plane was emblazoned with Allen’s name. 

The pilot, who had been on a routine training exercise, had served with the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, eastern England, since February this year. 

He was also assistant chief of weapons and tactics for 493rd Fighter Squadron – better known as the Grim Reapers.

Allen leaves behind his parents and wife Hannah, who in a heartbreaking tribute said she was ‘blessed to have loved him in this life and can’t wait to love him for eternity’. 

In the tribute, Hannah wrote that she had ‘no words to express how shaken I am’. 

‘He is gone. I’m shaking, I got a priesthood blessing and he told me Kage is so sorry – typical Kage to apologize even though he shouldn’t.

‘No words to express how shaken I am. Kage was perfect, never been treated with more love and respect in my life. 

‘He was my absolute best friend and man Christ needs hurry up and come back so I can be with Kage again.  

‘Thanks for all the messages. I love you all, Kage loves you all. He was so Christ like in how he cared for others. 

‘I feel beyond blessed to have loved him in this life and can’t wait to love him for eternity.’

Colonel Will Marshall, commander of 48th Fighter Wing, said last week: ‘We are deeply saddened by the loss of Lt Allen, and mourn with his family and his fellow Reapers in the 493rd Fighter Squadron.

‘The tremendous outpouring of love and support from our communities has been a ray of light in this time of darkness.’

Allen did his initial pilot training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma and follow-on training at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Oregon, according to Maj Sybil Taunton of the US Air Force.

HM Coastguard, which coordinated the search efforts, said it received reports that an aircraft went into the sea 85 miles off the coast of Flamborough Head in east Yorkshire. 

Wreckage was located before the pilot was found and confirmed to be deceased.

The cause of the crash is not known and an investigation is under way. The F15C is a model of jet that has been used by the US Air Force since 1979. 

The US air force said in a statement that next of kin notifications were complete. 

Tributes flooded in last week for the pilot, including from Republican congressman Paul Mitchell, who tweeted: ‘A true American Hero lost while training to protect us! My thanks to his family for sharing him in our defense.’

Scarborough lifeboat coxswain Lee Marton said: ‘The crews and other volunteers of RNLI Bridlington and Scarborough would like to offer their deepest sympathies to the family of the pilot and to all at 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath. 

‘Our Shannon lifeboats have a range of some 250 nautical miles and are perfectly suited to this kind of task, but any 12-hour operation takes its toll on the crews, especially when there is such a sad outcome.

‘I’d like to thank both volunteer crews and all parties involved in the search for their cooperation and professionalism during this major operation in what were very challenging conditions.’

In October 2014, an F15D fighter jet based at RAF Lakenheath crashed in fields near Spalding in Lincolnshire.

The pilot ejected safely, suffering only minor injuries, and no-one on the ground was hurt.

A US air force investigation found that the crash was caused by the ‘angle of attack’ of the aircraft and ‘imperfections’ in the assembly of the jet’s nose cap.

In October 2015, US pilot Major Taj Sareen died when his F-18 Hornet jet crashed on farmland near RAF Lakenheath.

A subsequent investigation found the 34-year-old did not report problems with his aircraft before take-off. 

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