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Answers sought in Lemoore Navy jet crash

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  • Phelps Hobart
    Answers sought in Lemoore Navy jet crash Two Hanford pilots died; investigators search for clues.
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 8 9:57 AM
      Answers sought in Lemoore Navy jet crash

      Two Hanford pilots died; investigators search for clues.


      Posted Thursday, Apr. 07, 2011

      By Marc Benjamin / The Fresno Bee

      Similar stories:

      LEMOORE -- Investigators were combing through the wreckage Thursday of an F/A-18F Super Hornet for clues to the crash that killed two Navy aviators the day before.

      Lt. Matthew Ira Lowe, 33, and Lt. Nathan Hollingsworth Williams, 28, died during a training mission when their fighter jet crashed into a Fresno County farm field west of Lemoore Naval Air Station.

      Both pilots lived in an upscale northwest Hanford neighborhood, about a block from each other and 15 miles from the base.

      A woman who answered the door at Williams' home said the family was grieving and did not wish to be interviewed. A large group had gathered at Lowe's home, but friends and family members also declined comment.

      James Crawford, Lowe's neighbor, said Lowe fit well into the community.

      Lt. Matthew Lowe and Lt. Nathan Williams were killed when the FA-18F Super Hornet Lowe was flying crashed just outside the base Wednesday.

      A Lemoore Naval Air Station security officer keeps watch near the area where one of the base's F/A-18 Super Hornet jets crashed Wednesday, April 6. The area is just west of the station's flight line and in one of the many agricultural fields that surrounds it.

      "He was a very cordial individual, easy to talk to and a good neighbor," Crawford said.

      Williams liked to play Frisbee with his dogs in the street, said neighbor Diana Black.

      He and his wife, who works as a nurse in Fresno, are "very good neighbors," she said. "We were very heavy-hearted and shocked because they're so young."

      Both aviators were members of a flight replacement squadron, which means they could be instructors or training for a new aircraft, said Melinda Larson, the base spokeswoman.

      Lowe, from Plantation, Fla., received his commission through Officer Candidate School in 2003. He was designated a pilot in 2006 following nearly four years of training. Lowe reported to the Lemoore squadron in July 2009. During his career he earned the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.

      Williams, a native of Oswego, N.Y., who served as the Super Hornet's weapons systems officer, received his commission through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Rochester in New York in 2004. He reported to the Lemoore squadron on Jan. 25, 2010.

      During his career, he earned the Air Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment ribbon and Pistol Marksmanship Medal.

      On Thursday, the area surrounding the crash site, between the dirt extension of Jameson Avenue and the western boundaries of the base, was guarded and remained closed to the public.

      On a nearby farm, Manuel Juarez said he saw the F/A-18F Super Hornet maneuvering in the skies to his south while he ate his lunch Wednesday.

      "It went up and down and then back up," he said in Spanish as his boss, Beto Guzman, translated. "Then he went straight up and down into a nose dive and he didn't pull out of it."

      Juarez said he then saw a large explosion across a flat expanse of farmland.

      He looked into the sky to see whether the airmen had ejected, but saw nothing.

      Larson, the base spokeswoman, said the crew was on an "independent training flight," a common practice at the base.

      A Navy review board convened Thursday at the base to investigate the cause of the crash; details about the crash will not be released until the investigation is completed, which could take several weeks.

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