It’s been 24 hours since the crash of a Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15C fighter jet in the mountains of western Augusta County, Virginia, and still no sign of the pilot even though crews searched throughout the night. Just as yesterday, there are clear, sunny conditions with temperatures again expected in the 80s on this late summer day in the Shenandoah Valley.
The Augusta County Board of Supervisors declared a state of emergency Wednesday evening, something necessary to help coordinate the search (see the declaration here).
Local, state, and federal agencies converged on the tiny location of Deerfield at the base of the Appalachian Mountains, the sparsely populated rural area of farms and large land holdings along with a post office, fire department, library, and convenience store. Everyone knows everyone in the area. The knowledge from locals is priceless in a situation like this because they know the roads and trails through the mountains, which routes are the best to reach remote areas, and they are equipped to access the densely forested, rugged mountain ridges while watching for poisonous snakes — copperheads and rattlesnakes populate those mountains — and wild animals.
There are few roads to Deerfield. From Staunton, take Rt. 250 west almost to the base of Shenandoah Mountain and then turn south on Deerfield Valley Road. It can also be accessed from Parkersburg Road, a narrow, gravel road accessed from Rt. 42 at Buffalo Gap that crosses the mountains and ends up in Deerfield. There’s also access from Rt. 39 in Bath County, a little-used back road that meanders north to Deerfield.
While word spread Wednesday that the pilot had ejected before the crash, that information was based on an eyewitness who claimed to have seen a parachute in the crash area. An overnight search involving dogs, horses, and a hundred rescuers turned up nothing.
Many are praying for the safety of the pilot who was flying to New Orleans.
Search moves closer to Staunton
By late Thursday morning, the search area has shifted east. From the Staunton News Leader:
“UPDATE 11:54 A.M.: Searchers are concentrating on the southeast area of Crawford Mountain, which is part of the Great North Mountain Trail, which is a line including Elliot Knob.”
This area is practically my front yard so we’ve had helicopters and airplanes flying overhead all day. The crash site is further west near Deerfield but this current search area for the pilot is located about four or five miles west of Staunton at Buffalo Gap.
Weather conditions today are sunny, hot with temp in upper 80s, barely a breeze, and white puffy clouds dotting the dark blue sky. It’s a typical hot late August day.
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