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Officials find debris from F-35 fighter jet that crashed in South Carolina after pilot ejected
AP Sep 19, 2023 13 days ago
FILE - A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II performs a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. On Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, a Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from an F-35 Lightning II over North Charleston, S.C. The search for his missing aircraft was focused on two lakes north of North Charleston, military officials said. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
FILE - A United States Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II takes part in an aerial display during the Singapore Airshow 2022 at Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, Feb. 15, 2022. A Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from a fighter jet over South Carolina and the search for his missing aircraft was focused on two lakes near North Charleston. Military officials say the pilot parachuted safely into a North Charleston neighborhood Sunday Sept. 17, 2023. He was taken to a hospital and was in stable condition. The pilot's name has not been released. A search for the missing F-35 was focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, which are north of North Charleston. (AP Photo/Suhaimi Abdullah file)
Airmen from Joint Base Charleston coordinate at the crash site of an F-35 to recover the fighter jet in Williamsburg County, S.C., on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. (Henry Taylor/The Post And Courier via AP)
Pilots exit a Florence County Sheriff's Office helicopter after locating the position of a stealth fighter jet that crash-landed the previous day in a nearby field in Williamsburg County, S.C., on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. (Henry Taylor/The Post And Courier via AP)
Dylan Hysong, 14, climbs up to the top of a deer stand to get a better look of local law enforcement and Airmen from Joint Base Charleston during recovery efforts for a stealth fighter jet that crashed just outside of the family's backyard the previous day in Williamsburg County, S.C., on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. (Henry Taylor/The Post And Courier via AP)
A law enforcement helicopter hovers over the location of a debris field from the crash of a stealth fighter jet in Williamsburg County, S.C., on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. (Henry Taylor/The Post And Courier via AP)
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The crash site for a stealth fighter jet that went missing during the weekend after its pilot ejected was located Monday in rural South Carolina after the military asked the public for help finding an aircraft built to elude detection.
The debris field was discovered in Williamsburg County, about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston. Residents were being asked to avoid the area while a recovery team worked to secure it.
“We are transferring incident command to the USMC this evening, as they begin the recovery process,” the base posted Monday on the X social media platform.
Authorities had been searching for the jet since the pilot, whose name hasn’t been released, parachuted to safety into a North Charleston neighborhood about 2 p.m. Sunday. He was taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition, Marines Maj. Melanie Salinas said.
“The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process,” the Marine Corps said in a news release on Monday evening.
The Marine Corps announced earlier Monday it was pausing aviation operations for two days after the fighter jet's crash — the third costly accident in recent weeks.
It's the third event documented as a “Class-A mishap" over the past six weeks, according to a Marine Corps announcement. Such incidents occur when damages reach $2.5 million or more, a Department of Defense aircraft is destroyed, or someone dies or is permanently disabled.
Commanders will spend the stand-down reinforcing safe flying policies, practices and procedures with their Marines, according to the Monday release.
Cpl. Christian Cortez, a Marine with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, said the details of what prompted the pilot to eject from the aircraft Sunday were under investigation.
Based on the missing plane's location and trajectory, the search was initially focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, said Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston. Both lakes are north of North Charleston.
A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the search after some bad weather cleared in the area, Stanton said. Military officials appealed in online posts Sunday for any help from the public in locating the aircraft.
The pilot of a second F-35 returned safely to Joint Base Charleston, Salinas said.
The planes and pilots were with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing based in Beaufort, near the South Carolina coast.