Investigations into F-18 crash near RAF Lakenheath to continue for ‘one to two weeks’
- Credit: PA
Investigations at the scene of last week’s fatal F-18 jet crash on the Suffolk/Cambridgeshire border are set to continue for up to two weeks, the US Air Force has revealed.
Major Taj Sareen, US Marine Corps pilot, had just taken off from RAF Lakenheath when the F/A-18 Hornet (F-18) he was flying crashed into fenland on a farm in Redmere, near Shippea Hill, Cambridgeshire, a week ago tomorrow.
The pilot of 11 years served in the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and leaves behind a young daughter and his family.
The investigation into the crash is being led by the USAF 48th Fighter Wing, at RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk. Senior Airman Trevor McBride, 48th Fighter Wing public affairs, said wreckage removal would start this week, adding: “While we can’t comment or speculate on the investigation, we can tell you that the response at the scene of the crash is likely to continue for one to two weeks, depending on when aircraft recovery efforts are initiated.”
An online appeal set up on the GoFundMe website by Major Sareen’s friend, Captain Annie Driscoll, last week has now raised more than £32,000 ($49,800) to help support his 14-month-old daughter Jade.
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Major Sareen was returning to Marine Corps Air Station Mirimar, in California, after six months of active duty in the Middle East.
The pilot, from Hillsborough, California, took off from RAF Lakenheath with five other F-18s on the morning of October 21, crashing just five miles away at 10.30am. Witnesses described the pilot ejecting and landing nearly a mile away from where the plane crashed.
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One witness saw a “300 to 400 foot fireball” erupt from behind buildings on Temple Farm, where father-and-son farmers Peter and Gary Sizer were working just 200 metres away.
The brother-in-law of Mr Sizer, Dennis Day, posted on the GoFundMe page after making a donation. He wrote: “The plane Taj was flying that day came down in my brother-in-law’s field just missing his large store sheds where he and his son were working, they were the ones who contacted the emergency services. God bless Taj, who maybe steered his plane away and saved at least two lives, maybe more.”
Another witness said Major Sareen could have ejected earlier, saying he appeared to be avoiding nearby houses.
The five other Marine Corps F-18 jets, which were diverted to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland on the day of the crash, are now back at RAF Lakenheath. They are due to leave for the US today.