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U.S. Military Jet Crashes In Death Valley National Park, Injuring 7 On The Ground

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet jet flies in Death Valley National Park, Calif. The crash occurred near the viewing area where park visitors watch pilots fly through a chasm known as Star Wars Canyon.
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A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet jet flies in Death Valley National Park, Calif. The crash occurred near the viewing area where park visitors watch pilots fly through a chasm known as Star Wars Canyon.

Updated at 8:47 p.m. ET

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet jet crashed during a training mission Wednesday in Death Valley National Park, resulting in minor injuries for seven park visitors, according to Navy and park officials.

Rescue teams have found the single-seat aircraft but are still searching for the pilot, whose condition is not known, according to Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock.

Bock said the Navy was aware of reports that bystanders had been hurt but could neither confirm nor deny the reports.

Death Valley National Park public information officer Patrick Taylor told NPR seven park visitors suffered minor injuries.

"At approximately 10:00 a.m PST an F/A-18E crashed near @NAWS_CL. Search-and-rescue efforts are underway," according to a tweet by the Naval Air Forces. NAWS CL stands for Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. It is in the Western Mojave Desert region of California, about 150 miles north of Los Angeles.

The aircraft was based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., Bock said.

Military jets are not supposed to fly over national parks, but an exception was made for a section of the park that has become a popular site to watch military training flights known as Star Wars Canyon, because the maneuvers resemble scenes from the science fiction films of aircraft speeding through canyons, according to ABC 10 News in San Diego.

NPR's Greg Myre contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales
Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.