ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — One of three naval pilots killed Monday in a jet crash on the other side of the country was a Howard County native.

Derek Valcourt has more on Lt. Valerie Cappelaere-Delaney–a graduate of Centennial High School.

What caused her jet to crash remains a mystery, but her Howard County family is now coping with a huge loss.

Memories of 26-year-old Lt. Valerie Cappelaere-Delaney are all her family have left.

“I’m drawing on the strength that my daughter had,” said Doreen Cappelaere, victim’s mother.

The Naval Academy graduate piloted the EA-6B Prowler jet that crashed into a farm field 50 miles west of Spokane, Wash. Monday morning while on a training mission–killing all three passengers on board.

Her parents in Ellicott City first heard the news in a phone call from Valerie’s husband Sean, who is also a naval pilot.

“It was devastating,” said Patrice Cappelaere, victim’s father.

“It wasn’t real when we first heard it from Sean. It was like ‘No this can’t be, maybe there are some survivors.’ We didn’t know anything. ” Doreen said.

“She knew about the dangers. They’re flying incredible missions,” said Patrice Cappelaere.

“And she was doing what she loved to do and what she wanted to do and that’s why we never held her back,” Doreen said.

Now her parents and two sisters  grieve as they prepare to head west to Washington state, where Valerie will be honored in a memorial service, giving those who loved her a final chance to say goodbye.

“We say that she’s doing some higher more important missions now where she is and it’s for the rest of us.  We’re in the harder place right now,” said Allison Righter, victim’s sister.

Lt. Valerie Cappelaere-Delaney is expected to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. She is being fondly remembered by many at her alma mater–Centennial High School.

The investigation into the cause of the crash could last several months.

To honor Valerie Cappelaere-Delaney, click here.


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