The Navy confirmed in a statement Thursday that the pilot who went down in Death Valley Wednesday morning died in the crash. The pilot's identity has not yet been released, and the cause of the crash is still under investigation.
The single-seat fighter jet originating from Lemoore Naval Air Station crashed Wednesday morning around 10 a.m., in the western area of Death Valley National Park known as Crowley Point.
At a press conference Wednesday evening, Commodore Captain James Bates explained that the pilot had not yet been found. "We are currently in an active state of looking for the pilot. We’ve got folks out there from our installation, China Lake, the National Park Service and the local authorities involved in that process."
The F/A-18E Super Hornet was out on a routine training flight with a second jet that returned to Lemoore.
Bates said crashes in this area are rare, and couldn’t recall the last time one happened. It's a region where pilots can practice flying low, sometimes as close as 200 feet above the ground.
Patrick Taylor, a spokesman from Death Valley National Park, confirmed that seven visitors suffered injuries from the crash that were not life-threatening.
Fighter jets and other military aircraft are common in the park; it was a military training ground in 1930, and continues to serve as such today, he said.
This post has been updated.