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Debris field found in search for F-35 jet after pilot ejects over North Charleston, S.C.

Debris field found during search for missing F-35
Debris field found during search for missing F-35 jet 00:30

North Charleston, S.C. — A Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from a fighter jet after a "mishap" over North Charleston Sunday afternoon and the search for his missing aircraft was focused on two lakes, military officials said.

Military personnel and local authorities on Monday evening said they'd located a debris field in Williamsburg County, about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston. They secured the field and asked members of the public to avoid the area as recovery efforts began.

Officials did not further specify the location of the debris field.

"The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process," authorities said.

Military officials had appealed in online posts Sunday for any help from the public in locating the aircraft, including one on X, formerly known as Twitter:

The pilot ejected and parachuted safely into a North Charleston neighborhood at about 2 p.m. on Sunday. He was taken to a local hospital and was in stable condition, said Maj. Melanie Salinas. His name hasn't been released.

Based on the missing plane's location and trajectory, the search for the F-35 Lightning II jet was focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, said Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston. Both lakes are north of North Charleston.

Missing Marine Corps Fighter Jet
A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II performs a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show, in Le Bourget, east of Paris, on June 20, 2017. Michel Euler / AP

A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the search for the F-35 after some bad weather cleared in the area, Stanton said.

Officials are still investigating why the pilot ejected, authorities said.

The pilot of a second F-35 returned safely to Joint Base Charleston, Salinas said.

The planes and pilots were with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 based in Beaufort, not far from South Carolina's Atlantic coast.

F-35s, built by Lockheed Martin, cost around $80 million each, according to Agence France-Presse.  

A Marine Corps spokesperson on Monday said the Marine Corps is ordering an immediate two-day safety stand down for all aviation units as a result of three recent accidents — the F-35 "mishap" on Sunday, an F-18 pilot death in a training accident, and the three Marines that died in an Osprey crash off of Australia. 

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