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Friday, September 22, 2023

Debris found during search for missing F-35 fighter jet in South Carolina

(NEXSTAR) — Debris has been found during the search for a military jet that apparently crashed after the pilot safely ejected over the weekend.

The debris field from the missing F-35 was found in the Indiantown area of South Carolina, officials with Joint Base Charleston have confirmed to Nexstar’s WCBD.

“Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field,” a statement from Joint Base Charleston reads. “The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process. We would like to thank all of our mission partners, as well as local, county, and state authorities, for their dedication and support throughout the search and as we transition to the recovery phase.”

The search began Sunday after a pilot was found on South Kenwood Drive in North Charleston after safely ejecting from the passing plane. The debris field was found roughly 80 miles northeast. Early Monday, authorities had expanded the search to Pee Dee, another 50 miles north of Indiantown.

The pilot, whose name hasn’t been released, parachuted to safety into a North Charleston neighborhood at around 2 p.m. Sunday. He was taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition, Marines Maj. Melanie Salinas said Sunday.

Cpl. Christian Cortez, a Marine with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, said there was a mishap involving an F-35B Lightning II jet. Exactly what happened was under investigation, he said.

On Monday, the Marine Corps issued a service-wide stand-down for all aviation units, both in and out of the U.S., The Hill reports. The two-day pause was issued by Marine Corps acting commandant Gen. Eric Smith after three aviation “mishaps” within the last two months — the F-35’s disappearance, a deadly F-18 crash near San Diego last month, and an MV-22B Osprey crash in Australia that killed three Marines and injured 20 other military personnel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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