A US Navy F-18 fighter jet on a routine training mission crashed on the west side of Death Valley National Park, CA on Wednesday, with debris injuring seven visitors at the Father Crowley Overlook, on the edge of Rainbow Canyon (aka Star Wars Canyon). There was no immediate word on the fate of the pilot.
“At approximately 10 a.m. PST, an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the ‘Vigilantes’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, crashed east of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California,” said Joint Strike Fighter Wing public affairs officer. Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock. “Search and rescue personnel are on scene and the status of the pilot is currently unknown. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.”
Rangers said there was a group of seven visitors at the overlook. They sustained burns, cuts, and scrapes from shrapnel flying through the air when the jet crashed, according to KABC. The injuries were mostly to their backs, arms and legs as they fled from the crash site, 50 meters from where they were.
The area has been used for military training flights since the 1930s, a ranger said, and regularly attracts spectators who want to watch the jets weaving through the narrow canyon in maneuvers reminiscent of the Star Wars movie.