Pilot killed in F-15 crash was decorated combat veteran

Air Force Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot, the former commander of the 67th Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, looks on at Komatsu Air Base, Japan, on Dec. 7, 2013. Fontenot was killed after the F-15 he was piloting crashed in Virginia on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Amber E. N. Jacobs/U.S. Air Force

According to the Stars and Stripes, the Massachusetts Air National Guard killed in this week’s F-15 crash has been identified as Lt. Col. Morris “Moose” Fontenot, Jr. Fontenot was a decorated combat veteran who had served as a fighter squadron commander at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa and had been deployed several times to the Middle East.


“On behalf of the family of our fallen pilot and with a sense of profound sadness, I am sad to share that Lt. Col. Morris “Moose” Fontenot Jr., was killed tragically in Wednesday’s F-15 crash,” said Col. James Keefe, Commander of the 104th Fighter Wing, based in Westfield, Mass. “We all continue to keep the Fontenot family in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”


The decorated officer had received high honors and recognition expressed by his receipt of the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal and the Aerial Achievement Medal. ABC News reported that before his tragic death, Fontenot had served full-time as a wing inspector general and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 17 years of experience flying the jets.


Brig. Gen. Robert Brooks, Commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, said rescuers could tell from the debris at the crash site that the pilot remained with F-15 until impact.


“We just found evidence that the ejection seat was with the aircraft,” Brooks said. However, he would not state if Fontenot’s remains had been recovered.


The Stars and Stripes reported that several aircraft with nighttime search capabilities joined ground search teams looking for Fontenot. Authorities stated that over 100 individuals were involved in the search effort.


While flying to the Naval Air Station located in New Orleans, Fontenot had contacted air traffic controllers about a problem with his F-15C fighter while flying at an altitude of between 30,000 and 40,000 feet.


Shortly after that, radio contact was lost and the plane crashed in the George Washington National Monument forest, leaving a large crater near the mountain of Elliott Knob. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a parachute.


The crash site has been secured but there has been no release of further details about the nature of the problem with the aircraft or the sequence of events leading to the crash. It is expected to take several weeks to piece the incident together.


No injuries were reported on the ground by the crash, near the crater and around the large debris left by the fallen aircraft.


According to ABC News, several F-15s have crashed over the past few years in different states. In at least one incident, the pilot was able to eject safely. Failure of support structure for the jet and pilot error have been cited as causes of some of the crashes.


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