Update: F-15 crashes in Knox County

Published: May. 30, 2007 at 2:18 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 26, 2007 at 1:32 PM CDT
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AP Graphic: F-15 Military Fighter Jet
AP Graphic: F-15 Military Fighter Jet
Map of the crash site area
Map of the crash site area
Crash site aerial photo: A section of the tail of the plane is circled
Crash site aerial photo: A section of the tail of the plane is circled

Reporter: Jonathan Hardison
New Media Producer: Amanda Lents

Update, Thur 6:35 am: A truly incredible story from a Knox County cornfield.

When a Missouri Guard F-15 crashed south of Vincennes, a civilian pilot who was visiting relatives at a nearby farm rushed to see if the pilot who ejected was okay.

And there walking away from the crash site was a familiar face.

The crash happened in the southern part of what's known as the Red Hills MOA, or Military Operations Area. It's airspace designated for military planes to practice combat maneuvers in, and residents inside the zone are used to seeing fighter jets practicing dogfights over their heads.

But John Snider, a neighbor and pilot, looked up Wednesday morning and knew something was wrong, "I thought he was a little bit unusually low, and of course the other airplane was higher, so I didn't know if he was already having trouble at that time."

Sinder, United Airlines pilot, was at his grandfather's farm when just after 10 am he watched an F-15 fighter engaged in a dogfight suddenly go down, "When I saw the nose drop, and the nose dropped at a rate about like just to the vertical. Course I knew at that point there was a big problem, the airplane was going to go down. I saw the ejection seats go out, the parachutes open. And no more than five to six seconds, the airplane impacted and of course the big fireball."

Sinder says this where the story takes an interesting turn, "I drove out there and I was running across the wheat field. And he was standing up walking around and he said, "Hey, I know you."

The F-15 pilot used to fly commercial planes with Snider, "He was really rather calm, and didn't seem incredibly shook up. Those guys train really well for that sort of thing."

Snider wasn't the only member of his family to witness the crash, Tanner Snider also saw the F-15 crash, "I saw it go behind the treeline over there, and it went up in smoke and we saw this huge explosion and this bright orange and smoke."

Snider's two kids were playing at his home a half mile away.

And though this is the second crash in three years within the training zone, tanner snider/crash witness:"after it happened Wednesday, we were kind of worried. We were thinking what could've happened if it did come out here, we were just kind of worried"

Snider says he doesn't worry for his family's safety, "Those guys, they have to have an area to practice. This is a nice flat open area, and I'm glad they're here. They practice and they protect our country, good guys."

The pilot complained of back pain and was treated and released from a local hospital.

Missouri Air National Guard investigators are at the site Wednesday night to begin their investigation into what caused the crash.

They say it may be a month or more before we have any answers. But that pilot certainly lucky to walk away from the crash.

Update, Wed 9pm: There's an ironic twist to this story. 14 News reporter Jonathan Hardison interviewed a resident in the area where the Missouri Air National Guard fighter went down Wednesday morning.

The pilot's name has not been offically released. John Snider says he was one of the first people to arrive to see if the pilot, who had ejected from the aircraft, was OK. Snider is also a pilot, for United Airlines. When he walked up to ask the F-15 pilot if he needed help, Snider recognized him as a former United Airlines pilot Snider used to work with.

Investigators say eight jets from the Missouri and Indiana Air National Guard were in what's known as the Red Hills MOA (Military Operating Area) doing training Wednesday morning.

Update, Wed. 4:15pm:  A pilot who ejected from an F-15 before it crashed in a farm field near Vincennes had 15 years of flying experience.

Missouri Air National Guard spokesman Colonel Greg Champagne declined to identify the pilot, but he says the pilot is in good condition. Guard officials declined to discuss his injuries, citing military privacy policies.

Champagne says the pilot is an Air National Guard pilot with 15 years of experience.

The jet was from the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Fighter Wing, based at Lambert Field in St. Louis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

New media producer: Amanda Lents

Update, Wed. 11:05 am: According to the Associated Press, the Missouri Air National Guard confirms one of its F-15 jets crashed Wednesday morning in southwestern Indiana.

The pilot safely ejected from the crash. Four aircraft were conducting training maneuvers in formation. None of the other planes was involved in the crash.

The planes were from the 131st Fighter Wing, headquartered at Lambert Field in St. Louis.

Knox County officials are confirming the crash of an F-15 fighter jet a few miles south of Vincennes. An officer says they were securing a 100-yard radius around the crash site.

Update, Wed. 10:55 am: Authorities tell 14 News the pilot is okay.

We spoke with Willie Mayberry who witnessed the plane crash, "I seen two jets fighting, one made aloop and then I saw a parachute open, and then a little while later I saw the plane hit the ground and a ball of fire come off of it."

Update, Wed. 10:30 am: According to the Associated Press, The Federal Aviation Administration says it was a military F-15 fighter jet that crashed in Southern Knox County.

Previously: Authorities tell 14 News a military plane has crashed near South Sixth Street Road in Southern Knox County.

We're hearing there was a trainer and two pilots on board with parachutes. We're not sure yet of injuries, but have a crew on the way. The crash happened shortly before 10 am Wednesday.

We will bring you more information as it becomes available. We will stream Midday with Mike live at 11 am.

If you have an pictures or information about this crash email us at news@14wfie.com. Let us know what you saw.