Search efforts to resume for missing pilot

A team walks away from the helicopter they arrived in at the mobile command center in Deerfield, Va., on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. The helicopter is one of several being used in a search and rescue mission to locate the missing pilot of an F15c fighter jet which crashed into a mountain near Elliot Knob in Augusta County. (AP photo/The News Leader, Mike Tripp)

DEERFIELD, Va. (AP) — A Virginia State Police spokeswoman says ground rescuers will resume searching for a pilot who went missing after an F-15 fighter jet crashed in a remote, heavily wooded area of western Virginia.

Spokeswoman Corinne Geller says Thursday that ground search efforts will resume at 8 a.m. for the missing pilot. She said those efforts were suspended at midnight.

Officials say the pilot and jet are with the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which issued a statement Thursday morning saying the search was expanding with additional Air Force resources.

Officials haven’t yet said what caused the crash or whether the pilot ejected. The crash occurred around 9 a.m. Wednesday and several local residents reported hearing three loud booms.

Barnes Air National Guard Base provided this Summary of Facts:

– At approximately 0905 local time this morning Washington Center lost radio communications with one of our F-15C Aircraft flying cross-country over Western Virginia, we later learned around 0930 that the aircraft had crashed in a remote site on the Virginia/West Virginia border near Deerfield Valley, VA.

– The Aircraft was flying to New Orleans Naval Air Station to receive a system upgrade.  The mission was not tied to our home station alert mission, and the aircraft was not carrying any munitions.

– The Aircraft was flying by itself and it is a single-seat fighter (with a single pilot).  The pilot reported an In-flight Emergency prior to us loosing communication with the Washington center controller.   The specific details of that communication are not being released due to the on-going investigation

– A rescue mission is ongoing and is a joint effort between local fire and police, state police, the VA National Guard, Army and Air, and other Federal agencies.  At this time we have not had contact with the pilot and search and rescue assets have been deployed to the area to include helicopters.

– More than 100 member of the VA State Police, VA Air and Army National Guard, MA Air National Guard and Air Force and Air Force Reserve Personnel are part of the ongoing search operations

– The search operation is employing as many as 7 helicopters and specialized search and rescue aircraft like a HC-130 assigned to Moody Air Force Base and a C-26 assigned to the Syracuse New York Air National Guard unit.

– Operations overnight involved slowed ground searches due to the dangerous terrain, but up to seven aerial assets employed Infra-red cameras to aide in the search operations

– Members from Barnes traveled on Wednesday night to assist in the Search and Rescue Operations; they are currently on-scene securing and directing aspects of the recovery

– We do not know the status of the pilot, the investigation is ongoing.

– There have been witness accounts of seeing a parachute before the crash, but those reports have not been substantiated

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