Pilot Killed As US Jet Crashes In Huge Fireball

A US fighter jet has crashed near an RAF base on the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire border, killing the pilot, the US embassy has confirmed.

The F-18 Hornet from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 came down on farmland in Redmere, Ely at around 10.30am.

Emergency services are at the scene, some seven miles from RAF Lakenheath, Cambridgeshire Police said.

“We can confirm that the aircraft was a military aircraft,” a police spokesman said.

“It had taken off from RAF Lakenheath.

“There is believed to have been one person on board, and there has been one confirmed fatality.”

Witness Patrick Turner – who lives a few hundred yards from the crash site – told Sky News he went outside after hearing the plane overhead to see an enormous fireball.

“I thought the whole farm had gone up, the fireball was that big it was unbelievable,” he said.

“Then all of a sudden there was bang and it shook the whole building.”

Mr Turner said moments later he saw a partly opened parachute in the sky, although it was too far away to tell if the pilot was attached before it drifted away.

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

“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,” she said.

The US embassy in London said the Air Force had launched an investigation into the crash.

The US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Matthew Barzun tweeted: “The loss in Cambridgeshire today is terrible news, my thoughts & prayers are with all involved.”

Military analyst Paul Beaver told Sky News the plane was probably on its way back to its base in San Diego following a tour of duty on one of the three US aircraft carriers in the Middle East which are being used to target Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The crash comes just over a year after a US F-15 jet based at Lakenheath crashed near a school in Lincolnshire.

The pilot ejected safely and suffered only minor injuries.

In January last year four crew members died after a US military helicopter, also based at Lakenheath, crashed on the north Norfolk coast.

The Pave Hawk helicopter came down during a training exercise in Cley Next the Sea.

http://news.sky.com/story/1573566/pilot-killed-as-us-jet-crashes-in-huge-fireball

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