WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — A military pilot who crashed off Wrightsville Beach this afternoon is in stable condition, according to a Marine Corps news release.
We have confirmed the pilot is with Marine Attack Squadron 542, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point. 1stLt Maida Zheng, with MCAS Cherry Point, says the pilot ejected from an AV-8B Harrier around 5:05 p.m..
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office says the military jet went down south of Figure 8 Island.
According to a release, the pilot was rescued by a H-60 Seahawk from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 at about 5:28 p.m. and was transported to the Naval Hospital at Camp Lejeune. He is listed in stable condition.
Witnesses said they could see boats and debris on the horizon floating in the water as they stood on Wrightsville Beach shortly after the crash.
However, right as the crash happened, one surf instructor said he and his students saw what they thought was a big cloud.
“Then we started hearing reports that a pilot had gone down,” Neal Zumbo said. “We saw three other harriers flying over us so we kind of put two, and two together and knew there was one missing and then all the rescue helicopters and, what not, starting flying out.”
The Marine Corps says the pilot of the Harrier left Wilmington International Airport and was doing flight training with the intention of returning to ILM.
The H-60 that rescued him is based out of NAS in Norfolk, VA. Their missions include vertical replenishment, search and rescue, air and sea rescue and anti-surface warfare. They are currently operating off the USS Wasp in support of the Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The crash is under investigation.