NAS LEMOORE — The pilot of a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet died in a jet crash Wednesday near Death Valley National Park, the U.S. Navy confirmed Thursday.
"The identity of the pilot will be withheld 24 hours," an official statement said. "The Navy mourns the loss of one of our own and our thoughts go out to the family and friends affected by this tragedy."
The crash occurred at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday about 60 miles from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.
Seven civilians sustained minor injuries and were treated on scene, said Capt. James Bates, Commodore for the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific.
Two jets, both from NAS Lemoore, were training near Rainbow Canyon when the crash occurred. The aircraft that crashed was assigned to the "Vigilantes" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151.
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The two pilots weren’t necessarily in formation during training, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock said. It’s likely the other pilot didn’t witness the crash, which is still under investigation.
Death Valley and Rainbow Canyon are common locations for fighter jet pilots to train, Bates said. The area is a popular place for visitors to watch the low-level military flights.
The pilot belongs to one of Bates’ squadrons, Bock said.
“Lemoore is a very tight-knit community," Bates said. "As we move through this process, the base and the community around us are always good about supporting the military. I thank everybody for everything they’ve done.”