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Va. Town Reacts to Search for F-15 Pilot

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DEERFIELD, Va. (WGGB) — Shortly after the F-15 crashed into a wooded area near Deerfield, Va., the tiny town was teeming with rescue and emergency crews from across the region.

“It was a very uhh…I don’t know what you would call it…disturbing for everybody for sure in the whole area,” says Deerfield resident Bill Dudley.

At just about every table near western Virginia, Wednesday’s F-15C jet crash was on everyone’s mind.

“It rattled all the windows in the house. We didn’t know what was going on and we came outside and saw all the smoke go up in the air,” adds Ray Strickler of Deerfield, Va.

While it was hard to miss for most, some like Dudley’s wife were closer than others.

Dudley adds, “She heard a couple booms and then saw. She ran out the door…actually the dog woke up, ran out the door, and heard another big explosion and felt like she saw a vapor trail from maybe where he ejected.”

Dudley’s wife helped direct authorities where to spend some time searching, but both locals and professionals know rescuers have their hands full in extremely mountainous terrain.

“The challenge in this situation is very heavily wooded terrain, so you have a very thick canopy, so then you have to visually identify through that. It is a challenge, but we’ve got some very sophisticated optics on the aircraft,” says Major Cotton Puryear (Ret.) of the Va. Air National Guard.

As helicopters and planes buzzed above, theories of what went wrong spread from neighbor to neighbor on the ground Thursday.

The one thing everyone agreed on:

“We are just hoping the pilot is hung up on a tree and we can go up and get him somewhere,” Dudley says.

“I just wish they could find the pilot, I really do and him be alive. I’m sure they’ll find him. I just hope he’ll be alive,” adds Robert Truxell of Deerfield, Va.


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