05/07/04 — Crwmen return to Seymour Johnson after fighter jet crashes in Virginia

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Crwmen return to Seymour Johnson after fighter jet crashes in Virginia

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on May 7, 2004 2:01 PM

An F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet crashed Thursday several miles west of Rocky Mount, Va. The two crewmen bailed out and were not injured.

Capt. Robert Strickler of the Franklin County, Va., Sheriff's Office said the crewmen were taken to a hospital for observation as a precaution.

The jet was assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. It was one of two planes performing a low-level training mission, according to a statement from the base's public affairs office.

The pilot was Capt. Darren P. Wees and the weapon systems officer was Capt. Daniel C. Spier, according to a base statement. They have returned to Seymour Johnson, said the base public affairs office.

The F-15E crashed in a rural area near the intersection of two country roads. Personnel from the 4th Fighter Wing and civilian emergency response agencies went to the scene.

Whitey Taylor, 53, said in an interview that he was just arriving at the Franklin County Speedway to watch the stock cars practice when the planes flew over.

"I looked up at it and, 'Shew!' A shiny piece of metal flew off. It looked like the wing. And he just flew straight up and I saw this big huge fire come off the top of the jet," Taylor said.

The plane slammed into the ground about a quarter of a mile from the speedway, which Taylor owns. Taylor drove over and helped pull the crewmen out of the trees.

Police reported no major property damage. The fire was contained to a small area.

An interim board will be formed to investigate the accident. The public is restricted from entering the area and was asked not to pick up parts of the aircraft due to safety hazards.

Witnesses and anyone who finds parts are asked to contact the 4th Fighter Wing public affairs office at (919) 722-0027 during duty hours and (919) 722-0000 after hours to provide contact information for the investigation board.

The last previous crash of a 4th Wing F-15 occurred last June near Four Oaks in Johnston County. The two men aboard suffered minor injuries. Investigators determined that a missing fastener caused the pilot of the aircraft to lose control.