Law enforcement officers and volunteers searched through the night for the pilot of a Massachusetts National Guard aircraft that went down Wednesday in a mountainous section of Augusta County.
For hours, helicopters rose and landed near the Deerfield Valley Volunteer Fire Department where dozens of uniformed police officers and volunteers in T-shirts came and went by car and truck. State police and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management coordinated an air and ground search stretching 20 miles in all directions from the crash site. They also used dogs trained for search and rescue, according to state police spokesman Corinne Geller.
“It’s very heavily wooded. There’s a deep crater and then a very large debris field surrounding it. It’s an isolated area. There are no residences nearby – just a small farm, and the owners have been out to attend to the livestock. There have been no injuries reported within Augusta, and again, we’re still searching for the pilot of that aircraft.”
Military officials said pilots routinely train to eject from aircraft and to survive in remote areas. The crash site is at one of the highest points in Augusta County – about 4400 feet above sea level. The pilot reported an in-flight emergency, and local witnesses reported seeing a parachute in the air near the crash site, but officials could not confirm the possibility that the pilot had ejected.
They said the aircraft was not armed but carried considerable fuel for a flight from Massachusetts to New Orleans, where the F-15 C fighter jet was scheduled for a system upgrade. Agencies taking part in the search included men and women from the county and state, along with the F.B.I. and the national forest service. Border patrol agents, who had been on a training mission in the area, also joined in the effort to locate the missing pilot.