Identity of F-15 Pilot Who Died in VA Crash Released
WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) – The identity of the pilot who died in an F-15C Eagle crash in Deerfield Valley, Virginia Wednesday morning has been released.
Lt. Col. Morris “Moose” Fontenot Jr. was killed tragically after losing radio communication at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. He had reported an in-flight emergency just prior. The aircraft was on its way to Naval Air Station New Orleans for a modification to its radar system.
Barnes Air National Guard Base released his name Friday saying, “Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. served with the 104th Fighter Wing as the full-time Wing Inspector General, responsible for the implementation of the Air Force Inspection System and as an F-15 instructor pilot with more than 2,300 flight hours. A 1996 Air Force Academy Graduate, Lt. Col. Fontenot was additionally a Weapons School Graduate with more than 17 years of F-15 flying experience. He served as a squadron commander at multiple locations. Following Active Duty assignments in Washington D.C., Japan, Idaho, Florida, Alaska and numerous deployments to the Middle East, Lt. Col. Fontenot joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard in February 2014. He was a decorated combat veteran, earning the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal among others.”
The plane that Lt. Col was piloting crashed in a remote mountainous area of the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia after air traffic controllers out of Washington lost contact. Investigators could not safely go into the crash site until late Thursday afternoon because the area was physically too hot to even get close to the debris. So for nearly 2 days helicopters searched from the sky and emergency crews of around 150 on foot, horseback and ATVs searched for Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. on the ground hoping to find him alive.
The announcement that he had been found deceased at the crash scene came just after 9:00 p.m. Thursday. When search and rescue efforts first began, Col. James Keefe, Commander for the 104th, originally told ABC40 that he was “very experienced” and that members of the wing go through ejection and survival training every six months. “He’s been well trained to survive.”
But Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. was not able to escape the F-15C Eagle in time. He was not able to safely eject. Barnes says that they are still investigating.
“What will happen is the search and rescue team at the crash site will methodically go through crash site and collect the remains they’ll be transferred to Dover AFB where casualties are processed , there they will arrange a transfer with full military honors the remains back home to his family,” explains Lt. Anthony Mutti of the 104th Fighter Wing.
When the news came out that Lt. Col. Morris Fontenot Jr. did not survive the crash, support for his family and those who knew him flooded in. Governor Deval Patrick shared his thoughts Thursday night saying in part, “This is a very sad day for the Guard and for Massachusetts…Our prayers and condolences are with his family, the Wing Command and all the Members of the Massachusetts National Guard.”
Friday Col. James Keefe released a statement saying, “We all continue to keep the Fontenot family in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”