‘Nothing Short Of Heroic’: Navy Says Pilot Killed When His Aircraft Went Down Died Saving Lives

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alex Corona/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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The pilot of a U.S. Navy aircraft that went down in the Pacific last week reportedly gave his life trying to save the rest of the people on board the aircraft.

Lt. Steven Combs, 28, died alongside two other service members last Wednesday when a U.S. Navy twin-engine C-2A Greyhound crashed in the Philippine Sea. Through his efforts, eight of the eleven people on the plane survived the crash, the latest fatal accident to hit the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the past six months.

“Lt. Combs’ airmanship was nothing short of heroic, and was instrumental in savings the lives of the eight survivors,” Navy spokesman Commander Ronald Flanders told The Berkshire Eagle. He revealed that the co-pilot, who survived the crash, told Navy officials that “Steve flew the hell out of that plane.”

Elizabeth Combs, the pilot’s sister, spoke on behalf of her family and expressed pride in her brother’s heroism in an interview with The Berkshire Eagle. “That aircraft is not meant to do a water landing and he was able to land it in a way that let people get back to their family,” she told reporters, crying. “It does help a little bit, that even in his last moment he was looking out for others. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.”

“We will never be complete, she explained. “There is just this massive void. We love him so much and we will miss him for the rest of our lives.”

In the wake of the crash, which also claimed the lives of Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Matthew Chialastri and Aviation Ordinanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso, the Navy launched a massive search and rescue operation. When the search was called off days after the crash, the Navy publicly identified the fallen.

A total of twenty sailors have perished in three 7th Fleet accidents in recent months. Seven service members died when a container ship slammed into the side of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, and another 10 were killed when an oil tanker collided with the destroyer USS John S. McCain.

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