Written by Staff Writer by Julia Piper, CNN
A British F-35 jet crashed while performing a flyover for a fleet parade in the River Thames as part of celebrations marking the centenary of the Army Air Corps in December, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
The identities of the pilot and his co-pilot were not released but a witness said it appeared as if the two were killed instantly. The incident, at 2:40 p.m. GMT on Monday, took place as two F-35A jets took off from HMS Queen Elizabeth, the aircraft carrier being built by Boeing and will be used in military operations by 2023.
The aircraft were escorted by two Typhoon jets but they didn’t have time to identify the crash site before heading back to Britain.
Rio dos Santos Garcia, a trainee engineer who was on the riverbank at the time, said he believed the first jet was flying too low and low enough.
“Then there was a short time when the jets stopped flying and I felt that there was something wrong. I got down. Then (something) fell … from the sky and the wings were gone. … They lost the engine and the plane crashed,” he told CNN.
“The pilot didn’t make a sound. He was dead. His co-pilot, he was also dead.”
In a statement, the RAF said: “Earlier today, HMS Queen Elizabeth conducted its inaugural flypast to mark the centenary of the RAF and the start of the 100th anniversary year of the Royal Navy.
“During the flypast, two F-35As on the Royal Air Force’s Nimrod STOVL flight line came into contact with the aircraft carrier. The aircraft landed safely back at RAF Waddington following the incident.”
The same type of jet also crashed at Edwards Air Force Base in California earlier this year and damaged the hangars where it was being stored.
The incident follows the discovery of a seaplane that veered off course at 2,000 feet before crashing in Germany killing four people in August.