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Rescue teams continue search for US Navy fighter pilot in Death Valley

A jet fighter flies through Rainbow Canyon in Death Valley National Park, Calif. (Kessler/National Park Service)

Military search and rescue teams are continuing their search for a Lemoore Naval Air Station pilot whose fighter jet crashed in Death Valley on Wednesday, U.S. Navy officials said during a press conference.

The Super Hornet went down around 10 a.m. during a routine training flight, according to Strike Fighting Wing Pacific Cmdr. James Bates. The crash site is near the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in Ridgecrest.

The pilot was flying with another jet, but they were not flying in formation before the crash, officials said.

Bates decline to identify the pilot, but said he’s “hoping for the best” outcome. He could not say if the pilot ejected before the crash.

Up to seven people on the ground were injured in the crash, according to Death Valley National Park spokesman Patrick Taylor, but none of those injuries were life-threatening.

It wasn’t immediately clear how those injuries occurred.

The crash happened on the western edge of the park, in an area known as Father Crowley Overlook above Star Wars Canyon. Military jets regularly fly over the canyon, Taylor said, and it is a popular spot for photographers to wait to capture photos.

Search and rescue teams from the China Lake and Lemoore bases are on scene. Initially, National Park Service rangers responded to the incident, Taylor said, but the military has since taken over.

The cause of the crash in under investigation, the Navy said.

The Super Hornet was part of a squadron nicknamed the Vigilantes from Lemoore. It is part of Carrier Air Group 9 and attached to the USS John C. Stennis.


© 2019 The Fresno Bee