On Thursday, officials confirmed the death of a U.S. Navy pilot killed during a Mojave Desert training mission. The pilot was operating the F/A-18E Super Hornet jet Wednesday morning during low-level flying when the incident occurred.
"We've had mishaps here before, in various locations, but not in this particular location," U.S. Navy Capt. Jim Bates said.
As of now, officials have not released a name due to Defense Department Policy that the release must be withheld until 24 hours after next of kin as become aware. According to Fox, the crash sent a dark smoke into the air while also injuring 7 people. Viewers are known to frequent Death Valley National Park to view military aircraft fly through a chasm called "Star Wars Canyon."
"I just saw a black mushroom cloud go up," said Aaron Cassell, who was first to report the crash. "Typically you don't see a mushroom cloud in the desert."
Cassell works about 10 miles away from the crash site at his family's Panamint Springs Resort and said he immediately knew something was wrong. "It looked like a bomb."
He added, "To me that speaks of a very violent impact."
Following the incident, Cassell and his father drove to the crash site where they examined a large dark scorch mark and pieces of shattered aircraft.
In a statement, the U.S. Naval Air Forces announced that, “The Navy mourns the loss of one of our own and our thoughts go out to the family and friends affected by this tragedy.”