The Marine pilot who died after his F-18 aircraft crashed Wednesday in England apparently used his last few moments to swerve out of the way of residential homes instead of ejecting, said one witness near the scene.
Karen Miles-Holdaway was working in her garden right at the time the F-18 came crashing down into a field adjacent to her location.
“It came over the houses much lower than they normally do,” Miles-Holdaway told Watton and Swaffham Times. “Then I heard the noise which I can only describe as like an afterburner noise, a huge sound and nothing like the jets we normally have over here.”
“I have to say the whole community is feeling for the pilot’s family, and we send our condolences and prayers. I think that he could have ejected earlier, but was trying to avoid the houses and for that we are incredibly grateful,” she added.
Marine Corps pilot Taj Sareen was part of a fleet of six F-18s transferring from Bahrain to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California after taking part in air strikes against Islamic State.
It’s not clear what caused the crash following Sareen’s take off from U.S. base RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. The pilot was the only one in the aircraft. The base is located 70 miles northeast of London.
“The remaining five F/A-18C’s safely diverted to RAF Lossiemouth,” the Marine Corps said in a statement, referring to a base 400 miles away in Scotland. “The United Kingdom Coast Guard is currently on the scene of the crash site and is in close coordination with U.S. military officials.”
“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the pilot. The cause of the crash is still unknown.”
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