Speaking to reporters in Westfield, Mass., Col. James Keefe of the Massachusetts Air National Guard said the pilot of the one-man F-15 fighter jet was unable to eject and did not survive the crash.
The jet was en route to New Orleans for routine maintenance without any munitions on board when it crashed in the mountains of western Virginia, rattling nearby residents who captured photos of the smoke, but causing no injuries on the ground. The two-day search and rescue effort involved more than 100 local, state, and federal officials and volunteers.
This is Keefe's full statement:
I stand before you to share some unfortunate news on the fate of our missing pilot. We received notification from the site investigation team that our pilot did not survive the accident. He died as a result of injuries sustained during yesterday's crash.
This is a devastating day for the family of our deceased pilot and the members of our 104th Fighter Wing and the entire F-15 community. These tragedies remind us of the risk that our brave men and women in uniform take every day.
Due to the nature of the incident, our investigations team could not enter the crash site safely yesterday until later this afternoon. Upon their initial survey, they discovered that our pilot did not safely eject from the aircraft. The pilot was pronounced deceased by the on-scene craft investigations team in Virginia. At this time, we are officially transitioning form a search and rescue effort to a search and recovery operation.
The investigation into the crash is ongoing.