The Los Angeles Times reports that a fiery crash of a U.S. Navy jet in Death Valley on Wednesday has left seven spectators injured. The pilot who was flying the jet has not been located, and his current status is still unknown.
The crash happened on the morning of Wednesday, July 31st at approximately 10:00 a.m. near the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in a place that has been dubbed “Star Wars Canyon” because of how Naval pilots fly their jets like the fictional fighters in the popular movie franchise.
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The U.S. military has been using the area for military combat exercises since before World War II in the 1930s and became a part of Death Valley National Park in 1994. Many visitors come to watch pilots from nearby military bases and see these powerful aircraft in closer proximity than they would be able to do so elsewhere. According to Death Valley National Park public information officer Patrick Taylor, it has become one of the park’s most popular attractions. “It’s one of the main attractions,” said.
Authorities say that the visitors who were hurt while observing the crash suffered only minor injuries.
Some of the military bases that use the Death Valley Star Wars Canyon site are from Edwards Air Force Base, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Naval Air Station Lemoore, Fresno Air National Guard Base, and Nellis Air Force Base located just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Pilots from U.S. foreign allies will also practice air maneuvers when they happen to be in the area.
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Search and rescue crews from the Naval air stations at China Lake and Lemore along with a medical team have been dispatched and are searching the area around the crash site for the pilot. Navy Lieutenant Commander Lydia Bock said in a statement to the paper that the rescue teams are prepared to continue their search throughout the night.