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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — An F-35A Lightning II fighter jet crashed at Hill Air Force Base on Wednesday around 6:15 p.m.
Officials say the pilot ejected and was recovered by emergency crews. The pilot was taken to a medical center for observation.
Brock Thurgood, who owns property in South Weber near the base, said the pilot landed near his property after ejecting. Thurgood said he heard a loud boom and saw smoke, so he got on an all-terrain vehicle to investigate, along with his daughter and two other nearby residents.
“We went up there and as we’re driving down the Canal Road … looking for a way to get up there, we looked over and saw him,” Thurgood said. “He was waving his arms and yelling and walking down towards us and it was the pilot. I don’t really think there’s much to say other than that he’s OK, and that’s the most important part.”
Thurgood said the pilot was in fairly good shape, and although “his hands were bloodied up and he was a little banged up, he was walking and he was coherent.”
“I don’t know how I’d be after I was in a plane crash but he was surprisingly tough,” Thurgood said. “Also, he just seemed like a really good person even having just been through something that was probably crazy to him.”
Thurgood said they sat with the pilot until first responders arrived, and helped them navigate the terrain to reach him. All things considered, he said he was impressed that the pilot managed to avoid hitting any of the houses in the area.
“He did a dang good job,” Thurgood said. “He got it away from homes, he got it away from people. He was a stud. I just feel like he did a really good job and he was really lucky.”
“I do know that the pilot made his best effort to avoid any buildings or anything on the ground prior to ejection, and that resulted in no injuries to anyone on the ground,” said Col. Graig Andrle.
The jet crashed at the north end of the runway, according to a tweet from the 388th Fighter Wing, which operates out of Hill Air Force Base. In a later tweet, officials asked civilians to avoid the area where the crash occurred.
“Please respect emergency responders and avoid the area of South Weber Drive,” they said.
Mitt Nilson, 13, also lives near the crash site, and said he was riding his dirtbike and witnessed the entire crash. He said it started when he noticed smoke coming from the engine of the F-35 above him.
“I heard this weird noise so I looked up, I looked around and I saw this plane with just smoke pouring out of it,” Nilson said.
Nilson said he saw the pilot land in a tree on a nearby property, seconds before the plane went down. He said he saw “parts flying everywhere, parts of the wings, parts of the cockpit and then just fire.” He said he was glad to hear the pilot survived.
“I’m just really grateful that they actually have the guts to go and do that,” Nilson said.
Utah Fire Info tweeted that a downed military aircraft sparked an 8- to 10-acre fire on Defense Department land.
“Fire has been suppressed but continues with Haz-Mat and other needs,” the tweet said.
The cause of the crash is being investigated.
“We have been in communication with leadership @HAFB,” said Gov. Spencer Cox in a tweet. “We’re praying for the safety of the pilot and first responders and will continue to monitor the situation.”
Eyewitnesses to the crash or those who have found anything that may be related are asked to call 801-777-0911 or email email@example.com and include their name, address, phone number and any relevant details.