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Two dead in U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighter jet crash off coast of Key West, Florida

A Navy F/A-18 jet has crashed off Key West. (Twitter)
March 14, 2018

A pilot and weapons officer died Wednesday when their U.S. Navy F/A-18 fighter jet caught fire midair and crashed off the coast of Key West, Florida during a training mission.

The Navy on Thursday morning issued this statement:

An F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed on final approach to Boca Chica Field, Naval Air Station, Key West, Florida at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT, March 14.

Search and rescue crews were notified shortly after the crash where they recovered both the pilot and weapons systems officer from the water approximately one mile east of the runway. Both were taken by ambulance to Lower Keys Medical Center.

Both aviators have been declared deceased. Per Department of Defense policy, the names of the aviators are being withheld until 24 hours after next-of-kin notification.

The F/A-18F is a dual-seated aircraft assigned to the “Black Lions” of Strike Fighter Squadron Two One Three(VFA-213), based at Naval Air Station Oceana and was conducting a training flight.

The cause of the mishap is currently under investigation.

Earlier reports stated that the pilot and weapons officer were recovered but that their condition was unknown.

U.S. Navy Air’s twitter account tweeted out: “UPDATE: We are sad to report that both aviators have been declared deceased. Their families are in our prayers. Per policy, we will withhold notification pending NOK [next of kin] notification.”

An earlier tweet from the Navy stated: “An F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-213 crashed on approach to Boca @NASKeyWest this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Rescue crews recovered both aviators from the water; they were taken by ambulance to Lower Keys Medical Center. The jet was on a training flight; cause under investigation.”

A witness, Barbie Wilson, told Military.com that: “Literally, the wings went vertical, and there was a fireball, and it just literally dropped out of the sky.”

No other information is available at this time.