Pilot of US fighter jet found dead after North Sea plane crash

15 June 2020, 18:36

The US Air Force F-15C Eagle crashed at 9.40am on Monday
The US Air Force F-15C Eagle crashed at 9.40am on Monday. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The body of a US military pilot whose plane crashed in the North Sea this morning has been found.

A statement from RAF Lakenheath said: "The pilot of the downed F-15C Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing has been located, and confirmed deceased.

"This is a tragic loss for the 48th Fighter Wing community, and our deepest condolences go out to the pilot's family and the 493rd Fighter Squadron."

The F-15C Eagle, from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, plunged into the sea off the Yorkshire coast at 9.40am on Monday.

The cause of the crash is not known, and an investigation is underway.

The identity of the pilot will not be made public until the next of kin has been informed.

The plane itself was recovered earlier this afternoon.

In a statement, the Royal Air Force said: "At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with one pilot on board.

"The cause of the crash as well as the status of the pilot are unknown at this time, and UK Search and Rescue have been called to support."

The F15C is a model of jet that has been used by the US Air Force since 1979.

RAF spokesman Martin Tinworth said the aircraft has an "exceptional flight safety record".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This accident is a terrible tragedy and I desperately hope that the brave pilot will be found. I pay tribute to the search and recover personnel that have been deployed to the scene. 

"Having flown with 48th fighter wing, I know what a community it is, and I know what a blow this will be to the community in Lakenheath, military colleagues, and of course the pilot’s family. 

"On behalf of all residents of West Suffolk, I want to thank every member of USAF based locally for their service and their sacrifice in defence of our freedom, which we value so highly. My thoughts are with you all."

RAF Lakenheath is the "largest US Air Force-operated base in England and the only US air forces in Europe F15 fighter wing", its website said.

The 48th Fighter Wing, which has operated from the base since 1960, has more than 4,500 "active-duty military members".

Its mission statement is to "provide worldwide responsive combat air power and support".

In October 2014, an F15D fighter jet based at RAF Lakenheath crashed in fields near Spalding in Lincolnshire.

The pilot ejected safely, suffering only minor injuries, and no-one on the ground was hurt.

A US Air Force investigation found that the crash was caused by the "angle of attack" of the aircraft and "imperfections" in the assembly of the jet's nose cap.

In October 2015, US pilot Major Taj Sareen died when his F-18 Hornet jet crashed on farmland near RAF Lakenheath.

A subsequent investigation found the 34-year-old did not report problems with his aircraft before take-off.