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Navy Says Pilot Was Killed in Death Valley Fighter Crash

Identity is being withheld for a day
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 1, 2019 8:55 AM CDT
Updated Aug 1, 2019 6:55 PM CDT
This July 17, 2019, photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet in flight after refueling over the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Brisbane, Australia. The Navy said that an...   (Senior Airman Elora J. Martinez/U.S. Air Force via AP)
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(Newser) – The pilot of a Navy jet fighter that crashed in Death Valley National Park was killed, the military said Thursday, per the AP. The identity of the pilot will be withheld until 24 hours after notification of next of kin in accordance with Defense Department policy, the Navy said in a statement. The F/A-18E Super Hornet was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-151 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's Central Valley. The unit goes by the nickname "Vigilantes." The jet went down Wednesday during low-level flying in what was described as routine training. The crash injured seven people who were at a scenic overlook where aviation enthusiasts routinely watch military aircraft speeding low through a chasm dubbed "Star Wars Canyon."

The crash sent dark smoke billowing in the air, said Aaron Cassell, who was working about 10 miles away. "I just saw a black mushroom cloud go up," he said. "Typically you don't see a mushroom cloud in the desert." 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-TV spoke to a group of French tourists who said they were treated at a hospital for minor burns and cuts from flying fragments after the plane crashed and exploded. The Super Hornet is a twin-engine warplane designed to fly from either aircraft carriers or ground bases on both air-superiority and ground-attack missions. The cause of the crash is under investigation, per ABC.

(Read more Super Hornet stories.)

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