EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AP) – An Air Force fighter pilot died yesterday after his jet and another likely collided during a training exercise and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. The other pilot was rescued and is expected to survive.
The single-seat F-15C Eagles crashed Wednesday off the Florida Panhandle, said Col. Todd Harmer, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, 58th Fighter Squadron. The pilots had ejected and were later rescued.
The base has suffered a “great loss,” Harmer said in an e-mailed statement.
He said, “We will continue to do everything we can to assist our families and airmen at this tragic time.”
The cause of the collision about 35 miles south of Tyndall Air Force Base was not immediately known, but the Air Force will investigate, Harmer said.
Weather in the area was clear.
The exercise emphasized “basic maneuvers and tactics,” Harmer said.
A Coast Guard rescue jet located one pilot and radioed the location to a fishing vessel, which picked him up, said Coast Guard Petty Officer James Harless.
A Coast Guard helicopter then hoisted the pilot off the vessel.
That pilot told rescuers he saw the other pilot also eject but lost him in the clouds.