NORFOLK, Va. (WJZ) — Two fighter jets collide in midair 35 miles from Maryland’s coastline. It took an incredible effort from the Coast Guard to bring one of the pilots to safety.
Christie Ileto has video of a daring rescue at sea.
One of the pilots was able to fly back to base in Maryland. But the other had to eject from his jet into the dark ocean waters.
A National Guard pilot clings to his emergency raft in the dark, choppy waters 35 miles southeast off Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore.
The Coast Guard says two F-16 fighter jets on a training mission late Thursday evening clipped wings in midair.
“Two F-16s in the middle of the night at the speeds they were going? Not a positive outcome,” said Lt. David Birky, U.S. Coast Guard.
One pilot was able to fly safely back to base in Maryland. The other ejected straight into the unforgiving water, breaking a leg.
“My first thought was definitely trauma injuries, and we’re just hoping he’s hanging in with us until we can get there,” said Bret Fogle, rescue swimmer.
Using flood lights, you can see Coast Guard Officer Bret Fogle locating the downed pilot.
“He seemed calm, very calm. Until I started moving him,” Fogle said.
The pilot was cut out of his emergency raft. Fogle is seen putting him onto a backboard, strapping him in while crews above hoist him into the chopper in pitch black conditions.
“It was dark. Dark as I’ve ever seen it,” said Fogle.
The mission took about 30 minutes. The rescue team took the pilot back to Joint Base Andrews in Prince George’s County to get his broken leg treated.
The National Guard has not released the names of the pilots involved in the crash. We do know, however, that one is a captain and the other is a lieutenant colonel.
Investigators are still trying to figure out why those two jets collided.