Navy: Military plane crash kills 3 in Washington State

SPOKANE, Wash. (CBS) - Three crew members on board were killed when a military plane crashed in Eastern Washington on Monday morning, CBS affiliate KREM-TV reports.

The E/A-6B Prowler flying from Naval Air Station Whidbey fell from the sky at around 8;30 a.m., U.S. Navy Lt. Kakiel told KREM-TV.

Witnesses said the plane was in a nose dive on its way down until colliding with the farmland below.

"You could see smoke and bits of plane in the middle of the field," local resident HaLee Walter told KREM-TV after visiting the crash site.

The Navy informed Congress that the wingman of the crashed plane reported that no parachutes were deployed.

"First responders are on the scene and have reported finding partial remains of the mishap aircrew," the Navy informed Congress. "All three onboard are presumed dead."

The identities of the crew were not immediately available.

The Prowler was "engaged in a low-level navigation training mission," the Navy told Congress. Whidbey Island officials said the cause of the accident was under investigation.

NAS Whidbey Island is home to the U.S. Navy's tactical electronic warfare squadrons. Crews from the base, located on Puget Sound, regularly fly across Eastern Washington for training exercises.

"The thoughts and prayers of northwest Washington are with the families of the aircrew who lost their lives today," said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., who represents the Whidbey Island area. "This tragic crash is a painful reminder of the dangerous work that members of the armed services perform every day in service to our nation."

The state House of Representatives observed a moment of silence Monday in response to the crash.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the crew of the plane was serving the nation.

"I know all Washingtonians join me in sending condolences to the crew's families and to their fellow service members," Inslee said.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., also said her prayers were with family members of the crew.

The crash occurred in a rural area between the towns of Harrington and Odessa, about 50 miles west of Spokane. Aerial views of the crash site showed a large crater in a farm field, surrounded by blackened vegetation. Much of the plane appeared to have disintegrated on impact.

The Prowler specializes in electronic warfare such as jamming enemy radar and intercepting radio transmissions. It can also be equipped with missiles.

Whidbey Island officials said the plane that crashed was attached to Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-129.


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