Fatal car chase ends as motorists crash into parked fighter jet
Two people were killed Thursday after their car crashed into a parked F/A-18E Super Hornet at the Naval Air Station Lemoore during a pursuit with law enforcement.
The driver of the Jeep Cherokee died at an area hospital, and the female passenger was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the air station, located in the Central Valley. Their identities have not been publicly released, but naval air officials said they were not affiliated with the military.
“Regardless of procedures we have in place, something went wrong, and we had a tragic accident,” said Navy Capt. Monty Ashliman, the installation’s commanding officer.
“We had some ... damage to an aircraft, and we had two tragic losses of life, so we got to figure out a way to prevent that from happening in the future,” Ashliman told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
The pursuit began late Wednesday when California Highway Patrol officers approached a Jeep that was parked on the side of the road in Kings County, in order to check on the welfare of those inside, CHP Lt. Dave Knoff said.
The driver of the Jeep drove away at a high speed, and patrol units quickly followed. The Jeep began weaving and refused to stop, Knoff said.
CHP officers called off the pursuit when the driver began traveling in the wrong direction on California State Route 198 in Lemoore, but the chase resumed again in Fresno County.
The Jeep drove through the air station’s front gate before security had time to deploy bollards, Lt. Jr. Grade Madison McSweeney said.
Security forces at the installation responded, while a CHP helicopter flew over the area and monitored the pursuit.
As the Jeep drove along an airstrip, it crashed into the parked fighter jet’s horizontal stabilizer, at the rear of the aircraft.
A full assessment on damage to the twin-engine jet is still being conducted.
An investigation will be conducted to determine how the Jeep was able to bypass security checkpoints. Authorities do not believe the installation was a target.
“There will be many investigations that will be ongoing to make sure that personnel and assets and taxpayers dollars are taken care of the best way we possibly can,” Ashliman said.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.