The crash of a US Navy fighter jet Wednesday in Death Valley National Park injured seven people who were at a scenic overlook where aviation enthusiasts watch military pilots speeding low through a chasm dubbed Star Wars Canyon, officials said. Ambulances were sent to the crash site near Father Crowley Overlook, said park spokesman Patrick Taylor. He said initial reports were that seven park visitors had minor injuries. KABC spoke to tourists who said they were treated for minor burns and cuts from flying fragments after the plane crashed and exploded. The injured tourists told the news station they were taking photos of the sweeping landscape when the jet screamed into view and suddenly slammed into the canyon wall. "I just saw a black mushroom cloud go up," Aaron Cassell, who was working at a resort around 10 miles away, tells the AP. "Typically you don't see a mushroom cloud in the desert."
Cassell says he heard jets roaring through the area and then saw the cloud of smoke. "It looked like a bomb," he says. "To me that speaks of a very violent impact." A search is underway for the pilot of the single-seat F/A-18 Super Hornet, which was on a routine training mission, says Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock, spokeswoman for Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's Central Valley. The lookout point about 160 miles north of Los Angeles is popular with photographers and aviation buffs who gawk at jets flying in the steep, narrow canyon. US and foreign militaries train pilots and test jets in the gorge, officially called Rainbow Canyon, near the park's western entrance. Training flights are almost a daily feature, with jets thundering below the rim of the canyon and passing so close viewers can see the pilots' facial expressions.
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