U.S. fighter jet crashes in Death Valley, 7 park visitors hurt

A U.S. Navy fighter jet crashed Wednesday in Death Valley National Park, injuring seven people who had been at a scenic overlook the place aviation lovers routinely watch military pilots dashing low by a chasm dubbed Star Wars Canyon, officers said.

The crash despatched darkish smoke billowing in the air, said Aaron Cassell, who was working at his family’s Panamint Springs Resort about 10 miles (16 kilometers) away and was the first to report the crash to park dispatch.

“I just saw a black mushroom cloud go up,” Cassell suggested The Associated Press. “Typically you don’t see a mushroom cloud in the desert.”

A search was underway for the pilot of the single-seat F/A-18 Super Hornet that was on a routine teaching mission, said Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock, spokeswoman for Naval Air Station Lemoore in California’s Central Valley.

“The status of the pilot is unknown at this time,” Bock said about 4 hours after the crash.

A military helicopter seemed for the pilot.

Ambulances had been despatched to the crash web site near Father Crowley Overlook, nonetheless, it wasn’t clear if anyone was transported for added medical treatment, said park spokesman Patrick Taylor. He said preliminary research had been that seven park visitors had minor accidents.

The lookout stage about 160 miles (257 kilometers) north of Los Angeles is well-liked with photographers and aviation buffs who gawk at jets flying in the steep, slender canyon.

U.S. and worldwide militaries observe pilots and examine jets in the gorge formally known as Rainbow Canyon near the park’s western entrance. Military flights there date once more to World War II.

The chasm acquired its nickname on account of mineral-rich soil and purple, gray and pink partitions bring to mind the home planet of “Star Wars” character Luke Skywalker.

Training flights are almost daily attribute with jets thundering beneath the rim of the canyon and passing so shut viewers can see the pilots’ facial expressions.

Cassell said he heard jets roaring by the realm after which see the cloud of smoke.

“It looked like a bomb,” Cassell said. “To me, that speaks of a very violent impact.”

A jet that was following the downed craft pulled up and commenced circling, Cassell said. He didn’t see any parachute.

His father drove as a lot because the realm after the crash and see a giant black scorch mark and shattered components of the jet scattered all by the realm between the parking zone and lookout, Cassell said. A nostril cone from the jet was the size of a bowling ball and the rest of the particles was no larger than a ball cap.

The jet was from strike fighter squadron VFA-151 stationed at Lemoore. The squadron is part of an air group related to the aircraft supplier USS John C. Stennis.

The Super Hornet is a twin-engine warplane designed to fly from each aircraft carriers or ground bases on every air-superiority and ground-attack missions.

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