Search effort ends after Mass. Guard F-15C crash in Virginia

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen join a multi-agency search effort after a Massachusetts National Guard F-15C crashed Aug. 27, 2014, in Augusta County, Va. Virginia Army National Guard aviators assisted with aerial search and rescue efforts with Lakota and Black Hawk helicopters, Soldiers and Airmen from the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team provided communications and incident management assistance and additional Guard personnel coordinated the overall aviation operation. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen join a multi-agency search effort after a Massachusetts National Guard F-15C crashed Aug. 27, 2014, in Augusta County, Va. Virginia Army National Guard aviators assisted with aerial search and rescue efforts with Lakota and Black Hawk helicopters, Soldiers and Airmen from the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team provided communications and incident management assistance and additional Guard personnel coordinated the overall aviation operation. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard)

DEERFIELD, Va. — Massachusetts National Guard officials confirmed late in the day Aug. 28, 2014, that the pilot of an F-15C Eagle that crashed in remote mountains near Deerfield Valley, Va., was fatally injured in the crash. Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen joined a multi-agency search effort immediately after the Aug. 27 crash with aerial search and rescue by Lakota and Black Hawk helicopters. Soldiers and Airmen from the Fort Pickett-based 34th Civil Support Team provided communications and incident management assistance and additional Guard personnel coordinated the overall aviation operation.

“Today was a tough day for the Massachusetts National Air Guard as we learned we lost great American, a warrior, a leader, and most importantly, a family member,” said Brig. Gen. Robert T. Brooks, Jr., Air Component Commander of the Massachusetts National Guard. “These tragedies remind us of the risks that our men and women in uniform take every day. We deeply share with the family in the loss of their loved one.”

Brooks explained that investigators were not able to enter the crash site until the afternoon of Aug. 28, but when they did they discovered evidence that the pilot was not able to eject from the aircraft.

“On behalf of Governor Patrick and the Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard, Maj. Gen. Scott Rice, we want to thank everyone here in the local area for their overwhelming support.”

The Massachusetts National Guard identified the pilot as Lt. Col. Morris “Moose” Fontenot Jr., in a news release Aug. 29.

Fontenot served with the 104th Fighter Wing as the full-time Wing Inspector General, responsible for the implementation of the Air Force Inspection System and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 2,300 flight hours. A 1996 Air Force Academy Graduate, Fontenot was additionally a Weapons School Graduate with more than 17 years of F-15 flying experience. He served as a squadron commander at multiple locations. Following Active Duty assignments in Washington D.C., Japan, Idaho, Florida, Alaska and numerous deployments to the Middle East, Fontenot joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February 2014. He was a decorated combat veteran, earning the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal among others.

“I want to thank all the volunteers and members of the more than 35 different organizations that came together over the last two days with the single-minded purpose of finding our lost pilot,” said Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “We all have him, as well as his family, and the entire Massachusetts National Guard in our thoughts and prayers.”

An official safety investigation board is being convened and the investigation into the crash is ongoing.

A massive search ensued following the crash of the jet Wednesday morning in dense forest. Approximately 150 personnel from the Va. Guard, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, Augusta County Fire and Rescue, Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, FBI and the U.S. Forest Service and other organizations took part in the operation.

At approximately 9:05 a.m. Wednesday, Washington Center Air Traffic Control in Washington, D.C., lost radio contact with the aircraft stationed at the 104th Fighter Wing, and at approximately 9:30 a.m. the 104th Fighter Wing learned that the aircraft had crashed in a remote site near Deerfield Valley, Virginia.

According the the Massachusetts National Guard, the single seat F-15C aircraft was en route to Naval Air Station New Orleans to receive a radar system upgrade. The flight was not related to the 104th Fighter Wing’s homeland defense mission, and there were no munitions on the aircraft during this flight. The pilot was flying a solo mission when he reported an in-flight emergency prior to the loss of radio contact with Washington Center.