Local Military News

What made a $115M plane plummet in Beaufort? Marines are looking for this info

Smoke rises from the site of F35 Marine plane crash, pilot leaves in ambulance

An F35 jet crashed on Little Barnwell Island near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
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An F35 jet crashed on Little Barnwell Island near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Four days after a multimillion-dollar, high-tech Marine fighter jet crashed in Beaufort County, officials are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to contact Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

“Good morning,” a Tuesday news release sent from the air station’s public affairs office began. “To help us as we continue our investigation, we are asking for anyone who may have witnessed the aircraft mishap at Little Barnwell Island to please email us your name and contact information to bfrt_jpao@usmc.mil.”

A similar message was shared around 9 a.m. Tuesday on the air station’s Facebook page.

The F-35B Lightning II was on “a routine training flight” Friday before it crashed, 1st Lt. Sam Stephenson, spokesperson for the 2nd Marine Air Wing, said Tuesday afternoon in an email to The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette.

Stephenson said the Marine Corps could not comment further about the flight given the ongoing investigation of the crash.

Stephenson also said the Corps would not release the pilot’s rank, current flight status and experience-level with the F-35 while the investigation was ongoing.

The investigation, Stephenson wrote in the email, “will most likely take six or more months.”

Beaufort County announced Tuesday morning that the Grays Hill Boat Landing on 395 Clarendon Road — which is near the crash site — “will be closed starting today until further notice for public safety purposes.”

“An update will be posted when the boat landing reopens,” the county news release said.

The F-35B, known as the joint strike fighter, is a single-seat, advanced stealth jet capable of short takeoffs and landings. A standard F-35B is valued at over $100 million, according to the Corps.

The pilot, a U.S. Marine, ejected safely and has since been released from the hospital, according to officials. The Marine Corps has not released the pilot’s name, citing privacy policies.

MCAS Beaufort operates one squadron of F-35s; the unit is called VMFAT-501 and is known as the “Warlords.”

Friday’s crash was the first of an F-35 and comes a day after Marine F-35s with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit completed their first-ever combat missions in the skies of Afghanistan.

On Saturday, the Corps issued a warning about carbon-fiber particles that could have been carried dozens of miles after the crash.

Those particles could cause common-cold-like symptoms if inhaled, according to the Corps. Young children and the elderly are especially at risk, the Corps said, noting that the particles should dissipate in a few days.