“At approximately 10 a.m. PST, a F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the ‘Vigilantes’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, crashed east of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California,” said Joint Strike Fighter Wing public affairs officer. Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock. “Search and rescue personnel are on scene and the status of the pilot is currently unknown. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.”
Flanders said the status of the pilot was unknown and that a search and rescue helicopter from China Lake, located in Ridgecrest, was en route to the crash area.
Patrick Taylor, a spokesperson for Death Valley National Park, said the park received a report around 10 a.m. PT from the Panamint Springs Resort that a military plane had crashed on the west side of Death Valley near Father Crowley Overlook in an area known as Star Wars Canyon.
The area has been used for military training flights since the 1930s, Taylor said, and regularly attracts tourists who want to get a glimpse of military pilots in action weaving through the narrow canyon in maneuvers reminiscent of the Star Wars movie. There are reports of visitors at the site with minor injuries due to the crash.
The Father Crowley Overlook has been temporarily closed. Emergency responders from the park, military, and Inyo County have been dispatched to the scene.