A US navy lieutenant died when his fighter jet crashed in the desert in California late last week, military officials said on Sunday evening.
The killed pilot, Richard Bullock, was flying his F/A-18 Super Hornet on a training mission on Friday afternoon when the aircraft went down in a remote, unpopulated area near Trona, an unincorporated Mojave desert community in San Bernardino county, the navy said in a statement.
No one on the ground was hurt, but Bullock died, the navy’s statement added. The exact cause of the deadly crash remained under investigation at the time Bullock’s identity was released, and both military and local authorities were still working to recover his jet at that time.
“The navy mourns this tragic loss alongside the family, friends and shipmates of Lieutenant Bullock,” the statement also said.
Bullock was part of Strike Fighter Squadron 113, based at California’s Naval Air Station Lemoore. The air base is about 240 miles north-west of Trona and is home to 16 so-called strike fighter squadrons, its website says.
Friday’s crash was at least the fourth involving a navy Super Hornet jet – and second deadly one – on a training mission since 2019, according to the Associated Press.
The first of the three earlier crashes, in Death Valley national park, killed the pilot and left seven spectators with debris-related injuries, AP reported. The spectators were tourists on an overlook that often draws aviation enthusiasts interested in seeing military pilots navigating a chasm colloquially known as Star Wars Canyon, officials at the time said.
Another Super Hornet from Lemoore crashed in 2020, and this past October one from Naval Air Station China Lake crashed. Both pilots safely ejected, one near the Nevada border in Death Valley and the other in the Mojave desert, the AP said.