Oak Harbor man was flying downed Hornet

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The pilot of the Navy fighter plane that crashed into the ocean shortly after takeoff from an aircraft carrier was from Oak Harbor, Navy officials said Sunday.

Lt. Daren Jewell, 26, was at the controls of the single-seat F/A-18C Hornet when it went down about 95 miles southwest of San Diego at 7:20 p.m. Friday, said Chief Petty Officer Brian O’Rourke, a spokesman for the Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet.

The jet crashed shortly after takeoff from the USS Constellation during routine training operations. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Rescuers using helicopters and boats searched through Saturday night for the wreckage and pilot. Some small pieces were found, but O’Rourke said the main body of the plane is believed to be about 6,000 feet underwater.

Navy officials said Saturday the pilot was presumed dead.

Jewell joined the Navy in 1996 after he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. He joined Strike Fighter Squadron 151 in April. The squadron, nicknamed the "Vigilantes," is based at Naval Station Lemoore, 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The accident follows two crashes of Hornet jets last month. The pilot of a Navy F/A-18C Hornet was killed Sept. 29 when his plane went down in the Persian Gulf after taking off from the Everett-based USS Abraham Lincoln, and two Marine Corps aviators were killed Sept. 11 when their F/A-18D Hornet collided with another plane over the Arizona desert.

O’Rourke said there were no immediate plans to ground all Hornets in the wake of the crashes.

"It’s way too soon," he said.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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