Officials discovered a debris field in South Carolina after an extensive search for a missing Marine F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jet. The site is reportedly two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston in Williamsburg County.
Marine Corps officials on Sunday describe the crash as a “mishap” and said an investigation would commence.
WLTX reported that a pair of F-35 LIghtning II jets were airborne around 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. One of the pilots safely landed without incident but the second “enabled an unspecified automated flight system and ejected over North Charleston.”
Joint Base Charleston used the term “mishap” to describe the cause of the pilot ejecting from the aircraft. The same post announced the pilot was located and transported to a hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.
They were listed in stable condition according to the base’s social media.
Resident Randolph White told local media outlets that a loud sound rang out Sunday afternoon. “I heard a plane coming across. Seem[ed] like it was flying relatively low. Then I heard a boom sound,” he said. “Well, I just took it and said it was probably a sonic boom.”
JUST IN: Footage of the debris field of the F-35 jet has been released after it was located in a field in Williamsburg County, South Carolina.
The crash site was about 80 miles from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.
The F-35 fighter jet appeared to run through a group of… pic.twitter.com/mqOdRSpUOt
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) September 19, 2023
When the debris field was located, a spokesman for the base said they were moving command of the situation to the U.S. Marine Corps. They added that “members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field.”
There were widespread reports of confusion over the details of the incident. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) called the briefing “one of the shortest meetings I’ve ever had.”
Mace said those sent by the Marine Corps to answer questions had no answers before adding, “Shocker.”
The Marine Corps announced on Monday that it instituted a two-day pause in operations. The move was made “to discuss aviation safety matters and best practices.”
Officials cited three aviation “mishaps” dealt with over the past six weeks for its action. It said the branch would emphasize proper flight procedures, ground safety, maintenance and combat readiness.
The press release said the pause will enable the Corps to put time and energy into “reinforcing the Marine aviation community’s established policies.” The aim is to protect personnel and ensure “the Marine Corps remains a ready and highly-trained fighting force.”