The U.S. Navy confirmed on Thursday, Aug. 1, that the pilot of a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet jet was dead when the plane crashed on Wednesday morning in California’s Mojave Desert during a training mission.
According to a Navy statement on Twitter, the identity of the pilot will be withheld for 24 hours to allow family notification in accordance with Department of Defense policy.
The crash took place in Death Valley National Park at a scenic overlook where aviation enthusiasts regularly watch military pilots speeding through the chasm named Star Wars Canyon, according to park spokesman Patrick Taylor.
On Wednesday morning, the single-seat warplane went down at 9:50 a.m. during low-level flying in what was described as routine training, The Associated Press reported. The crash injured seven people. Taylor said the injuries were minor from burns to cuts.
“At approximately 10 a.m. PST, an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the ‘Vigilantes’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., crashed east of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif.,” spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock said in a statement provided to USNI News.
The National Park Service said to CBS News that Vista Point is a popular destination for jet gazing and has since been closed.
Aaron Cassell, who was the first to report the crash to park dispatch, was working at his family’s Panamint Springs Resort about 10 miles away said that the crash sent dark smoke billowing in the air, The Associated Press reported.
“It looked like a bomb,” Cassell said. “To me that speaks of a very violent impact.”
Cassell said that a jet that was following the downed craft pulled up and began circling, he didn’t see any parachute.
The F/A-18E Super Hornet had been assigned to the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore in the Central Valley.
“I ask that we all come together to help support the family, friends, and shipmates of the pilot who crashed in California today. Our thoughts are also with those reported injured on the ground,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of Naval Operations, issued a statement on the crash on Twitter late Wednesday.
The cause of the crash continues to be under investigation.