The pilot of a US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet that crashed in Star Wars Canyon in Death Valley died in the crash, navy officers confirmed on Thursday.
The Navy is withholding the identification of the flyer till 24 hours after his family is reported, “in accordance with Department of Defense policy,” Lt. Commander Lydia Ellen Bock, spokesperson for the Joint Strike Fighter Wing, mentioned in a press release.
“The Navy mourns for the loss of one of our personal and our hearts go out to family and friends hit by this tragedy,” Bock mentioned.
Navy officers launched a search-and-rescue operation for the pilot on Wednesday after the F/A-18E Super Hornet jet crashed about 40 miles north of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
“I noticed a black mushroom cloud go up,” Aaron Cassell, who was at his family’s Panamint Springs Resort about 10 miles away, told the Associated Press. “Sometimes you don’t see a mushroom cloud in the desert.”
Seven tourists on the ground have been peppered with flying fragments from the crash and had been treated for minor accidents, the report mentioned.
Military craft is generally prohibited from flying over national parks. However, there’s an exception for part of Death Valley, parks spokesman Patrick Taylor said.
The downed jet, a part of the “Vigilantes” strike pressure based more than 200 miles away at a naval base in Lemoore, California, went down around 3 p.m. EST.