A U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet crashed northeast of Cambridge, England, Wednesday morning; local police officials say the pilot did not survive the crash. The plane had taken off from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.
“Response efforts are under way and the incident is currently under investigation,” the Marine Corps says.
This is a developing story; we’ll update this post as more news comes in.
According to aviation website Airlive, the fighter was one of several F/A-18s that had recently arrived at Lakenheath and were on their way back to the U.S. after being deployed in the Middle East.
The site also says that the jet’s pilot ejected from the craft, but did not survive. Witnesses are telling local media that they saw a parachute in the sky.
The crash occurred in a rural area near the town of Ely, in a region that’s dominated by farmland.
The area is close to two air bases that are only a few miles apart; despite their official designation as RAF air stations, both serve as hosts to U.S. Air Force units. RAF Lakenheath is home to the F-15s of the 48th Fighter Wing; RAF Mildenhall houses the 100th Air Refueling Wing.
A witness who spoke to Cambridge News, Patrick Turner, 72, of Redmere, described the crash, which happened before 11 a.m. local time:
“I was outside in my shed and heard an aircraft coming over. All of a sudden all hell broke loose. The noise was terrible – I’ve never heard that before. I looked up to the sky but it was so foggy that I couldn’t see anything.”
Turner lives across a field from the crash site, where he says he then saw a “massive fireball.”
Another witness, Karen Miles-Holdaway, 48, tells the newspaper, “I was in my garden when I saw the plane going over. It was much lower than they usually fly at. I have so much praise for the pilot as I have heard he didn’t make it. He took the plane away from the houses which was brilliant. We are just very grateful to him.”