Pilot dies after F/A-18C Hornet crashes near RAF Lakenheath

One of the F-18 aircraft at Lakenheath, pictured on Sunday. Credit: Mark Rourke/Pixelsnipers

One of the F-18 aircraft at Lakenheath, pictured on Sunday. Credit: Mark Rourke/Pixelsnipers - Credit: Archant

The pilot of a military jet has died after crashing on farmland close to the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire border this morning, police have confirmed.

Emergency services at the scene of a plane crash at Shippea Hill.

Emergency services at the scene of a plane crash at Shippea Hill. - Credit: Archant

A member of the public called Cambridgeshire Constabulary at 10.30am, to reports of a plane crash on Temple Farm in Redmere, Shippea Hill.

The F/A-18C Hornet from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 crashed just a short distance away from a number of homes.

The force said they believe there was just one person on board.

A spokesman from the US Embassy in London confirmed it was the pilot that died in the crash.

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Police also confirmed that the jet had taken off from RAF Lakenheath, and crashed around six miles northwest of the airfield.

There are reports the plane encountered problems with refuelling shortly before the crash, but a spokeswoman for the US Marine Corps said she could not confirm this.

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She told the Press Association: “We don’t know at this time if the pilot ejected from the aircraft. It is a one-seater aircraft so no one else was in it.”

An RAF Mildenhall spokeswoman said the plane was based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California.

She added: “The Marine Corps officially confirmed the death of the pilot, but it is unknown at this time if the pilot ejected from the single-seat aircraft.

“The aircraft was transiting from Bahrain to Miramar in a flight of six aircraft.

“The remaining five F/A-18C’s safely diverted to RAF Lossiemouth. The UK Coastguard 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.”

Fire, police, ambulance and air ambulance services are currently at the scene of the crash.

A Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said they were called just after 10.30am.

He said: “We were called following reports of an aircraft crash at Redmere.

“We have two crews at the scene at the moment but there is no sign of any firefighting action taking place.”

On Facebook, Colonel Robert G. Novotny, 48 Fighter Wing Commander, said: “Friends, thanks for the private messages regarding the F-18 crash this afternoon.

“We are hard at work coordinating with the local responders and preserving all the evidence we can.

“We will have a statement shortly but it is so dynamic right now that we want to get some more facts.

“I know you understand....thank you for your patience”

Matthew Barzun, the US ambassador to Britain, tweeted: “Have received update on this news. Tracking situation closely. We’re grateful for everyone’s concern.”

He added: “The loss in Cambridgeshire today is terrible news, my thoughts & prayers are with all involved.”

Patrick Turner, 72, who lives near to the scene of the crash, said he felt the ground shake as the plane crashed and saw a fireball between 300 and 400 ft above the buildings.

Mr Turner, a retired farmworker, said: “It sounded like the plane was coasting, then it sounded like he floored it, the noise was incredible.

“There was a huge bang and I felt the ground shake.”

Mr Turner, who was in his shed at the time of the crash ran out onto the road after hearing the bang and originally thought the farm buildings had been destroyed.

He then saw smoke coming up from behind the building.

He also saw the pilot eject from the plane. He said: “It looked like some sort of beacon had shot out.

“Once the parachute opened he floated across in front of me and ended up behind the trees.

“It was unbelievable, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The US Air Force this afternoon apologised after posting a Back To The Future tweet showing a fighter with flames coming from its wings following the crash today.

The crash comes just over a year after an American fighter based at Lakenheath crashed near a school in Lincolnshire.

The F-15 fighter jet from the US Air Force’s (USAF) 48 Fighter Wing crashed in fields near Spalding on October 8 2014.

The pilot ejected safely, sustaining only minor injuries, and no one on the ground was hurt.

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