- Air National Guard pilots were stationed in Terre Haute
By KIMBERLY HEFLING
Associated Press Writer
OAKTOWN, Ind. (AP) -- Two F-16 fighter jets collided in midair Monday over southwestern Indiana, killing one of the pilots, the Indiana Air National Guard said. The other pilot parachuted to safety.
National Guard Capt. Lisa Kopczynski said the two jets were from the Terre Haute-based 181st Fighter Wing and were on routine training in airspace reserve for military training near the Indiana-Illinois state line.
The names of the pilots were not immediately released.
Resident Lisa Hall said she was at home in the area about 40 miles south of Terre Haute 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.
Sandra Hatton, a spokeswoman for Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, said an officer with the Indiana Air National Guard was taken to the hospital, but that she could not disclose his condition.
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 came down in Illinois, but he would not give any other details and referred questions to Indiana authorities.
Storms with the potential to produce lightning and small hail were crossing the area, but no severe weather was reported at the time of the crash 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.