US F-18 Pilot Dead in 'Fireball' Crash

Plane took off from RAF Lakenheath, crashed miles away
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2015 8:11 AM CDT
US F-18 Pilot Dead in 'Fireball' Crash
In this Oct. 31, 2014, photo provided by the US Navy, an F-18 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf.   (AP Photo/US Navy, John Philip Wagner Jr.)

A US Navy pilot was killed when his F-18 jet crashed in farmland in eastern England, just a few miles from the US Air Force base it had departed, on Wednesday morning. "A military aircraft which had taken off from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk came down at about 10:30am" local time, a police rep tells Reuters. "We can confirm one fatality and believe there was just one person on board the aircraft." Sources tell the BBC and Guardian that the F-18 was one of six Marine Corps planes returning to the US from the Middle East, which landed at Lakenheath, about 70 miles north of London, over the weekend.

Four planes reportedly departed the base on Wednesday, but one failed to meet up with a waiting fuel tanker. "I was outside in my shed and heard an aircraft coming over. All of a sudden all hell broke loose," a man who lives near the crash site tells the Cambridge News. "The noise was terrible—I've never heard that before." The man says he then saw a "massive fireball" through the fog. "The flames were huge. There was no way anyone was getting out of that alive. It's certainly not the sort of thing you expect on your doorstep." Another witness tells the BBC the plane was flying low immediately before the crash, and she praised the pilot because he "took the plane away from the houses, which was brilliant." (More Navy stories.)

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