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Navy Pilots Identified In Fatal Central Valley Jet Crash

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Emergency crews arrive at the scene of a Navy jet crash near Fresno. (CBS)

Emergency crews arrive at the scene of a Navy jet crash near Fresno. (CBS)

LEMOORE, Kings County (AP) — Navy officials on Thursday identified the two pilots who were killed when their fighter jet crashed in a field near a Central California air base.

Lt. Matthew Ira Lowe, 33, and Lt. Nathan Hollingsworth Williams, 28, died when their F/A-18F Super Hornet went down during a routine training flight Wednesday, officials said. The jet crashed in a grassy field about a half-mile from the Naval Air Station in Lemoore.

Lowe, of Plantation, Fla., was the pilot and Williams, of Oswego, N.Y., was a weapons service officer.

The crash remained under investigation, according to Navy spokeswoman Melinda Larson.

The two men were assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 122, also known as “Flying Eagles,” a fleet replacement training squadron that does not participate in deployments. The squadron trains pilots to fly Hornets and Super Hornets, which are used by the military for combat operations and to perform in aerial shows.

Lowe became a pilot in 2006 and reported to the Lemoore base in 2009, officials said. Williams joined the squadron in Lemoore last year after becoming a naval flight officer, also known as a weapon systems officer, in 2007.

Lemoore’s Naval Air Station is the West Coast hub for the U.S.  Pacific Fleet and home to about 275 jets. Its mission is to train and man Strike-Fighter squadrons in the region.

In March 2010, two Lemoore-based pilots survived after their fighter jets collided over the northern Nevada desert during a training mission. One pilot was able to land his jet at the nearby Fallon Naval Air Station, while the other ejected before his jet crashed in a remote area of the base.

In June 2006, a Lemoore-based pilot died in a mid-air collision between two F/A-18C Hornets during training over Fort Hunter Liggett, a remote Army Reserve base 150 miles south of San Francisco.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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