By Juan Montoya
One of the four U.S. Air Force personnel who died in a helicopter crash Tuesday off the coast of England had ties to a local Assistant U.S. Attorney who has figured prominently in the prosecution of racketeering and bribery in the local judiciary.
El Rrun-Rrun has learned that special mission aviator Staff Sgt. Afton M. Ponce, 28, of Priest River, Idaho, is the daughter-in law of Luis Ponce, a brother of Asst. US Attorney Oscar Ponce.
The Pave Hawk helicopter where Ponce and the other three aviators were flying came down on a marsh near Cley-next-the-Sea. Investigators have speculated that the chopper may have been brought down by geese interfering with its motors.
According to television station KREM, Afton M. Ponce attended Priest River Lamanna High School until 2003.According to an obituary for her father, Therien, who was a Marine who served in Vietnam, her brother Ethan served in the army and her brother Ivan served in the Marine Corps. She also had two sisters, Erin and Leah, and was married to Andy Ponce.
She graduated from Airman Leadership School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in 2010.
Staff Sergeant Afton Ponce volunteered her time as a mentor at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors camp, which helps children and families come to terms with losing a loved one.
The Pave Hawk, assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron, was flying a low-level training mission when it went down at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Marshes near the town of Cley Next The Sea.
Local attorneys who had cases pending with Oscar Ponce have reported that he left the city for Idaho on Tuesday and could not be reached except for Emails sent by the local federal court. He is scheduled to return on Monday, they said.
Oscar Ponce has been one of the lead federal prosecutors who gained the convictions of Austin Attorney Marc Rosenthal, former district judge Abel Limas, former state representative Jim Solis, and former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos.