A routine U.S. Navy training flight that ended in tragedy had a college football connection.
Earlier this week, two Navy aviators were killed when a fighter jet crashed off the coast of Key West, Florida, this past Wednesday. Those who lost their lives were, according to the Associated Press, Lt. Cmdr. James Brice Johnson and Lt. Caleb Nathaniel King, who served in the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron Two One Three (VFA-213). Johnson was the pilot of the aircraft.
“[T]he aircraft crashed on final approach to Boca Chica Field following a training mission,” Military.com wrote. While details are scant at the moment, below is from that website’s report:
The crash happened around 4:30 p.m., Hecht said. Both pilots onboard the Super Hornet ejected, he said. Initially, Hecht said a search-and-rescue effort for the aircrew was still ongoing around 6 PM, but later he said the pilots were recovered within minutes and taken by ambulance to the medical center.
An eyewitness, Barbie Wilson, told Military.com the crash “looked like something out of a movie.”
Wilson, who lives on the back side of the air station, said she stopped to watch an F/A-18 flying overhead, as she often does, and was shocked to see what appeared to be a massive malfunction in midair.
“Literally, the wings went vertical, and there was a fireball, and it just literally dropped out of the sky,” Wilson said.
King (pictured, left) was a linebacker for the Midshipmen football team from 2009-11. He played in 38 games during his time at the military academy.
“Our hearts and deepest condolences go out to the entire King family,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said in a statement. “We lost a dear brother and warrior. The entire Navy Football Brotherhood mourns the passing of a great American. We love you Caleb!”