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Search Continues For Wisconsin National Guard Pilot After UP Crash

Plane Was Conducting 'Routine Training Mission,' According To Officials

F-16, below, escorting two F-35 jets, above.
F-16, below, escorting two F-35 jets, above, after arriving the latter arrived at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.  Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

The search continues for the pilot of an F-16 fighter jet that crashed Tuesday night in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is assigned to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 115th Fighter Wing at Madison’s Truax Field Air National Guard Base.

As of Wednesday morning, the pilot’s status and the cause of the crash were unknown. According to the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, the pilot was the only person onboard during the “routine training mission.” The crash occurred at about 8 p.m. in the Hiawatha National Forest, according to The Associated Press.

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Local first responders, the U.S. Coast Guard and the 115th Fighter Wing searched for the pilot overnight. Efforts were ongoing Wednesday morning.

Military personnel are on site, though the Delta County crash site was initially secured by local first responders, according to the state Department of Military Affairs. The crash is under investigation.

“We are a close-knit family and when an incident like this occurs, every member in our organization feels it,” Col. Bart Van Roo, 115th Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement. “Right now, the safety of our pilot along with search and rescue efforts are our top priority, and we will continue to pray for the pilot’s safe return.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers said he was “devastated” to learn of the crash.

“As search and rescue operations continue, Kathy and I are hoping and praying for the pilot’s safe return. Our hearts go out to pilot’s family as well as the members of the 115th Fighter Wing as they continue working to bring the pilot home,” he said in a statement.

On Sunday, the 115th Fighter Wing shared on Facebook that it would conduct evening training flights from Monday through Thursday. The post said Madison-area residents might hear planes taking off or landing at about 10 p.m. While training flights typically take place during the day, pilots must also “conduct evening/nighttime operations as part of their overall readiness,” it said.

According to the Department of Military Affairs, the 115th Fighter Wing will share updates about the crash on Facebook as they become available. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, more than 500 people shared messages of support on an initial post about the incident.

In 2011, an F-16 with the 115th Fighter Wing took off in Madison and crashed in rural Adams County. A representative from the National Guard told Wisconsin Public Radio the pilot was treated for injuries, and no one else was hurt in the crash.

Before that, Wisconsin’s most recent F-16 crash took place in 1995, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Pilot John Wasserburger ejected near Eau Claire and survived the incident.

In the last two decades, the 115th Fighter Wing has supported the Global War on Terrorism, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Hurricane Katrina relief, among other initiatives, according to its website.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available

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