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Fatal Crash: Pilot's Identity Released - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Fatal Crash: Pilot's Identity Released

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The pilot killed when he crashed an F-15 in Augusta County was Morris Fontenot Jr., a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

His plane went down Wednesday morning. He had only been with Barnes air base since February, but he was inspector general for the 104th Fighter Wing and had more than 2,300 hours of flight experience.

Friday, the military and park service crews were cleaning up in the George Washington National Forest, as investigators try to figure out what could have caused the crash.

When Fontenot, or Moose as his friends called him, left the Barnes Air National Guard Base Wednesday morning, he was just planning on a routine trip to New Orleans to get a systems upgrade on his F-15C jet. At about 9:05 a.m., he lost contact with air traffic control. A crater formed from the crash, high in the Augusta County mountains. By 9:30 Wednesday morning, military and law enforcement confirmed a crash, as first responders arrived on the scene.

It became a joint effort, with local, state and national search teams working through the night Wednesday and all day Thursday, looking for any sign of Fontenot. Around 10 p.m. Thursday, a press conference in Westfield, Massachusetts announced the news that he had not safely ejected from the jet, and did not survive the crash.

Search teams quickly deconstructed the extensive mobile command center set up in the small community of Deerfield, Augusta following the press conference. Now, teams are focused on cleaning up the debris field.

The military isn't releasing any other details at this point, but is thanking all the rescuers who worked the case in Virginia.

"We're thankful for the support from the nearly 30 agencies in the Virginia area that spent the last 30 hours scouring over dangerous terrain, committed to bringing home our fallen airman,” said Col. James Keefe with the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

The forestry department is assisting in the cleanup process since the crash happened right in the middle of the George Washington National Forest.

Barnes Air National Guard Base Press Release

(BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, 104TH FIGHTER WING , Westfield, Mass., Aug. 28, 2014)- Following the fatal crash of a 104th Fighter Wing F-15C aircraft in the remote mountains near Deerfield Valley, Va. the family has asked that the unit share with the public the name of the pilot who was fatally injured Wednesday.

"On behalf of the family of our fallen pilot and with a sense of profound sadness, I am sad to share that Lt. Col. Morris "Moose" Fontenot Jr., was killed tragically in Wednesday's F-15 crash," said Col. James Keefe, 104th Fighter Wing Commander. "We all continue to keep the Fontenot family in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time," added Keefe.

Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. served with the 104th Fighter Wing as the full-time Wing Inspector General, responsible for the implementation of the Air Force Inspection System and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 2,300 flight hours. A 1996 Air Force Academy Graduate, Lt. Col. Fontenot was additionally a Weapons School Graduate with more than 17 years of F-15 flying experience. He served as a squadron commander at multiple locations. Following Active Duty assignments in Washington D.C., Japan, Idaho, Florida, Alaska and numerous deployments to the Middle East, Lt. Col. Fontenot joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February 2014. He was a decorated combat veteran, earning the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal among others.

The investigation into the crash is ongoing.

#30#

No additional information is available at this time. Dignified transfer and memorial announcements will be made through official channels once releasable.

Background:

At approximately 9:05 a.m. Wednesday, Washington Center Air Traffic Control in Washington, D.C. lost radio contact with the F-15C aircraft stationed at the 104th Fighter Wing, Mass., and at approximately 9:30 a.m. the 104th Fighter Wing learned that the aircraft had crashed in a remote site near Deerfield Valley, Va.

The single seat F-15C aircraft was en route to Naval Air Station New Orleans to receive a radar system upgrade. The flight was not related to the 104th Fighter Wing's homeland defense mission, and there were no munitions on the aircraft during this flight. The pilot was flying a solo mission when he reported an in-flight emergency prior to the loss of radio contact with Washington Center.

Officials confirmed Thursday evening at 5:00 p.m. the pilot was fatally injured in the Aug. 27 crash of an F-15C Eagle in the remote mountains near Deerfield Valley, Va.

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