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Pilot identified in fatal F-16 fighter jet crash at South Carolina’s Shaw Air Force base

Then-Staff Sgt. David Schmitz, 4th AS instructor loadmaste in front of a C-17 Globemaster III Aug. 13, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jacob Jimenez)
July 02, 2020

The pilot killed in the U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet crash at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. late Tuesday night has been identified.

1st Lt. David Schmitz was killed during the crash, which took place at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night during a routine training mission. The jet was a F-16CM Fighting Falcon assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

“Last night, we lost one of our very best, Lt. David Schmitz,” 20th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Larry Sullivan said Thursday morning. “He died conducting a training sortie in South Carolina as his squadron, the 77th ‘Gamblers,’ is preparing to deploy overseas for combat operations.”

Sullivan said Schmitz  “Loved a lot of things. loved his family. He loved his country. And he loved to fly,” adding that Schmitz ha

“He enlisted in the United States Air Force and served with distinction as a load master on a C-17, supporting some of our nation’s most sensitive missions. And he never gave up on his lifelong goal of flying for the United States Air Force as a pilot.”

“He graduated in the top of his class in pilot training and he earned a spot in F-16s and here at the 77th,” Sullivan said. “Our condolences go out to the Schmitz family. To the Gamblers and to all of Team Shaw. ”

Before Schmitz was identified, Sullivan had confirmed his death in a 3:34 a.m. update on Wednesday morning.

A photo circulating social media claims to show the fiery wreckage after the crash. However, the photo could not be verified at this time.

Schmitz’ wife, Valerie Schmitz, posted publicly on her Facebook page remarking on her sudden loss.

“I watched Dave walk down the hall in his flight suit, open the front door, and leave. This time he looked back over his shoulder at me and smiled one last time before he shut the door. I didn’t know that would be the last time I’d see my husband alive,” she wrote.

“Hold your loved ones close. You never know when it might just be the last time you’ll see them. Your life can change forever in an instant,” she cautioned others.