F-35 fighter jet crashes at Hill Air Force Base in Utah; pilot ejects safely, avoids buildings

An F-35 fighter jet crashed at the north end of the runway at Hill Air Force Base in Utah Wednesday at around 6:15 p.m. local time.

The pilot safely ejected, and there were no injuries to those on the ground.

Nearby resident Brock Thurgood owns property near the base and went to investigate the crash after hearing a loud booming sound and seeing smoke.

Mr. Thurgood told KSL-TV, a Salt Lake City NBC affiliate, that when he found the unnamed pilot’s hands “were bloodied up and he was a little banged up, he was walking and he was coherent.”

Mr. Thurgood, along with his daughter and two other nearby residents who came along, waited with the pilot until first responders arrived.

The pilot deftly avoided striking homes or people. Mr. Thurgood credited the airman, telling KSL-TV, “He did a dang good job. He got it away from homes, he got it away from people. He was a stud.”

At a news conference explaining the crash, Col. Craig Andrle, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing that operates out of Hill Air Force Base, gave the pilot similar credit.

“All of us as pilots take every opportunity we have to mitigate the damage to anything on the ground, so I do know that the pilot made his best effort to avoid any buildings or anything on the ground prior to ejection,” Col. Andrle said, according to CNN.

Neither the official cause of the crash nor the current condition of the ejected pilot has been made available as of yet.

Mr. Thurgood was not the only nearby resident to witness the crash. Mitt Nilson, 13, was riding his dirt bike when the plane crashed.

The teen told KSL-TV that he saw “parts flying everywhere, parts of the wings, parts of the cockpit and then just fire.”

Scott Phillips was mowing his lawn and watching the near-daily routine of the F-35s coming in and landing at the base, CNN reported.

“They land generally towards the south as they did today. On approach, one appeared to lose power and dipped too low below the trees. Next thing I saw was fire,” Mr. Phillips told CNN.

Photos of the fire were posted on Twitter by someone who saw the smoke while driving.

The crash sparked up an eight to 10-acre forest fire, which Utah fire officials deemed the “Strip Fire.” The blaze has since been suppressed, according to Utah Fire Info.

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