Crews searching George Washington National Forest for pilot after military jet crash

Posted at 11:39 AM, Aug 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-27 23:43:39-04

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. --The search continues for a the missing pilot of an Air National Guard F-15C fighter jet that crashed Wednesday morning in Augusta County.

It was not immediately clear whether the pilot ejected, Air Force Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing commander, told reporters. However,

"People are on site. We actually have helicopters over the site doing the search-and-rescue mission, but we have not been able to talk to anybody," he said.

Virginia State Police said ten rescue teams were still combing through difficult terrain in the George Washington National Forest as of 10 p.m.

"Search-and-rescue crews are still searching at this hour on the ground and by air for the pilot. Search crews on the ground are conducting 'hasty searches,'" Virginia State Police Public Relations Director Corinne Geller wrote. "These are searches along logging roads, fire trails, forest roads, etc. This is for the safety of the search crews, as the off-road terrain in the George Washington National Forest is too rocky, wooded and steep for navigation in the dark."

Additionally, Geller said that at least 100 state police, sheriff's deputies and fire and rescue personnel had been dispatched along with seven helicopters conducting aerial searches.

The single-seat aircraft went down in a remote, wooded area near the Virginia-West Virginia border.

Prior to losing contact and the crash, the pilot reported an in-flight emergency, Keefe said. He declined to talk about the details of that report.

There were no reports of injuries on the ground, Geller said.

Plane crash in Augusta County, Va. (PHOTO: Garrett Beck)

Plane crash in Augusta County, Va. (PHOTO: Garrett Beck)

The state police got the call about the plane crash around 9:45 a.m., and smoke indicated the location of the crash.

"The F-15C aircraft was in route to receive a system upgrade, and there were no munitions on the aircraft during this cross-country trip," Virginia Army National Guard public affairs officers Cotton Puryear wrote in an email.

Officials said Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia National Guard, Augusta County Sheriff's Office, Augusta County Fire and Rescue, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, FBI, and the US Forest Service remain on the scene.

The Air Force has secured the crash scene and remains on the site.