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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Indiana National Guard pilot killed in crash over Knox County

Monday, May 17, 2004

- Planes were from Terre Haute air base

OAKTOWN, Ind. (AP) -- Two military fighter jets collided Monday over southwestern Indiana, and an eyewitness said one of the pilots was killed. The other pilot parachuted safely to the ground.

Lisa Hall said she was at home when she heard an explosion and that she saw the dead pilot's body in a field nearby.

"I walked outside and saw the man coming down in the parachute," Hall said. "His parachute wasn't open, it was collapsed."

State police Sgt. Greg Winkler said the jets collided about 1:40 p.m. over Oaktown, about 40 miles south of Terre Haute. Winkler said the military had been notified but could not say to which branch the jets belonged.

A Knox County emergency services, who not give his name, said the county coroner had been sent to the scene, but would not confirm any fatalities.

Sandra Hatton, a spokeswoman for Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, said an officer with the Indiana Air National Guard's 181st Fighter Wing was taken to the hospital, but said she could not disclose his condition. She referred questions to the National Guard, which did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

Don Kirkham, a former Knox County sheriff, said he was mowing his lawn when he heard a boom or explosion and then looked up to see someone parachuting down. He said he drove to that area near the Indiana-Illinois state line and found two other people comforting the pilot, who was agitated and had head wounds.

"He's OK. He's bleeding from facial wounds," Kirkham said.

"All he was concerned about was his buddy. He said 'I'm not worried about anything but my buddy,' so we cornered him and got him into an ambulance," Kirkham said.

Illinois State Police Sgt. John Waggle said one of the planes was down in Illinois, but he would not give any other details and referred questions to Indiana authorities.

Jonathan Swain, Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan's press secretary, said that the jets were F-16s, but that he did not know any other details.

Storms with the potential to produce lightning and small hail were crossing the area at the time of the crash, but no severe weather was reported in Knox County, said Jason Puma, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.

"There were some thunderstorms in that area at the time, but I don't what kind of role that could have played in the incident," Puma said.

Karla Caballero, manager of Da Bar & Grill in Oaktown, said she was talking on the phone to her mother when she heard what she assumed was a sonic boom.

She said that about 15 minutes later a man came into the bar and said he saw a pilot parachute down along nearby U.S. 41 who said he spoke to the pilot, who appeared fine.

She said other people said they saw smoke coming from an area about 6 to 8 miles south of the rural town of about 800 people.

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