A military F-15 fighter jet crashed early Wednesday in the western part of Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
A lawyer friend, Sabrina Chester in Churchville about eight miles west of my house, first posted on Facebook Wednesday morning around 9:00:
Does anyone know what the huge explosion was just a bit ago?? Shook my entire house & spooked all the animals…smoke from Deerfield side of the mountain….possible airplane crash???
At my house, we had not heard the boom but were hearing helicopters overhead. Still not sure if they were heading toward that crash area, or whether they were military, or the Pegasus helicopter with University of Virginia Hospital out of Charlottesville.
A search and rescue mission is underway but word has trickled out the pilot ejected before the crash. There is still no confirmation of that or if he has been found.
Another friend, Lisa Dula who lives in Deerfield, has been on national radio today giving updates. She didn’t know how how they found her contact information but friends have named her the unofficial mayor of Deerfield. She was interviewed by the national NBC News (see Pilot missing after F-15 fighter jet crashes in Western Virginia) and a Boston radio station. Lisa heard the boom and was able to see the smoke riding on the mountain but there was no vehicle access.
That area of Augusta County is extremely remote in the George Washington National Forest area of the Appalachian Mountains with wooded ridges and heavy leafy canopies. There is no cell phone service.
The airplane was reported to be a single-seat F-15C that was with the Massachusetts Air National Guard out of Westfield, Massachusetts. The pilot reportedly notified of an inflight emergency and then lost radio contact.
Another Augusta County resident heard the crash and saw the smoke. Garrett Beck at Marble Valley Farms took the photo above:
Garrett Beck, who works on a farm a mile from the crash site, said he heard two booms and ran outside to see if a tire on a truck had blown. “I turned around and there was a mushroom cloud. It looked like something you see in a movie after they dropped a bomb,” he said.
Another resident also heard it:
“It’s the loudest noise I’ve ever heard,” 63-year-old Rebecca Shinaberry, who lives on a farm about two miles away, told The Associated Press. “(It) just shook the ground, and from my house we could just see a big plume of smoke.”
It is a clear, sunny day here in Augusta County with temperatures in the low 80s. Many prayers have gone up from residents throughout the area for the safety of the pilot. This is a breaking story with constant updates….
UPDATE 8/27/14 at 4:30 p.m.: I am passing along what the locals in my end of Augusta County of saying. We’re all west of Staunton; Deerfield is just off Rt. 250 as you head west toward Highland County. I’ve heard the local emergency responders have been told to stand down as federal forces take control of the search and rescue which seems to often be the norm. However, in this case there are locals who know those mountains way better than any federal person from outside the area and could possibly be of great help. Word is the pilot doesn’t have a radio so they may have trouble finding him in the woods that cover those rugged mountains.
UPDATE 5:00 p.m.: Residents in the crash area are reporting many choppers in the air and military men on foot in the search mission.
Also from LynnRMitchell.com:
– Day 3: Air National Guard pilot killed in Virginia crash identified
– F-15 pilot killed in Augusta County, Va, crash
– Search for pilot moves closer to Staunton
– Day 2: Search continues for downed Air National Guard pilot in Augusta County
– Breaking news: State of emergency called by Augusta County in search for missing Air Guard pilot
– Military fighter jet crashes in mountains of western Augusta County — UPDATED
– Gratitude expressed by Mass. Air National Guard for efforts searching for downed pilot
Photo by Garrett Beck
Marble Valley Farms