LEMOORE, California – The Lemoore-based fighter pilot who was killed in the F/A-18E crash on Wednesday has been identified.
The U.S. Navy identified him as Lt. Charles Z. Walker, 33.
The Super Hornet was assigned to the “Vigilantes” of VFA-151 based at NAS Lemoore.
The crash happened around 10 a.m. near China Lake.
Search and rescue teams looked for that missing pilot for hours. One day later, the Navy announced Walker did not survive. The community and even people throughout the country are showing their support.
“I just know it affects everybody deeply when it’s a fellow shipmate. It doesn’t matter whatever squadron or whether the boat, the ship,” said Vanessa Heck of Alabama. Her son was also with VFA-22 up until this May.
Walker’s commander made a statement via the Navy’s Twitter account.
The NAS Lemoore aviation family is grieving the loss of one of our own. Lt. Walker was an incredible naval aviator, husband and son. He was an integral member of the Vigilante family and his absence will be keenly felt on the flight line. Our aviators understand the risk associated with this profession, and they knowingly accept it in service to our nation. The untimely loss of a fellow aviator and shipmate pains us all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.Capt. James Bates, Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific
Search and rescue teams combed Rainbow Canyon looking for the pilot late into Wednesday evening. The community of Lemoore showed their sympathy.
“I feel sorry for the family. I think they had a lot of hope that maybe he bailed out,” said Cheryl Bergren who we met in Lemoore on Thursday.
There was also an outpouring of support on social media. The squadron informed fellow Vigilantes of the tragedy there too.
Authorities say Rainbow Canyon is common for training because of the challenging terrain.
“I’m surprised they fly in that canyon. I had no idea that they did that,” Bergren said.
Seven Death Valley Park visitors who witnessed the crash suffered cuts and burns from fragments of the jet.