F-18 crash: Pilot who died in Cambridgeshire crash named as Taj Sareen - cordon remains at crash site
PUBLISHED: 09:39 22 October 2015 | UPDATED: 17:12 22 October 2015
The pilot of a US Marine Corps F-18 who died on Wednesday when his plane crashed in the Cambridgeshire Fens has been named as Taj Sareen.
US media reported that Taj, who was identified by his sister, lived in San Diego.
He had been a pilot in the US Marine Corps for almost 11 years, according to his LinkedIn page, and has a daughter.
ABC 7 news photographer Chris Jewett who knew Taj said the pilot wanted to make a difference.
“He had this confidence and infectious smile. When he came in the room everyone wanted to talk to him whether he was wearing his dress blues or not,” Jewett said. “It just seemed like something he was called to do, something meaningful.”
One eyewitness said the plane avoided nearby houses before it crashed.
San Diego reporter Preston Phillips said: “That’s Taj in a heartbeat. I mean, he would do that to save people,” ABC 7 reported.
The F-18 was on its way from Bahrain to Miramar in California when it crashed in a field at Redmere at around 10.30am, shortly after taking off from RAF Lakenheath.
Cambridgeshire Police confirmed this morning that a cordon remains in place at the crash site.
Control of the scene has now been handed over to the US Air Force, with a small number of police officers remaining at the site to offer assistance.
A public service announcement from RAF Lakenheath confirmed that an investigation into the crash is underway and asked for the public’s co-operation.
It said: “We ask that if any members of the community find anything they think might be associated with the crash site, to please leave it undisturbed and contact either the Cambridgeshire Constabulary or Norfolk Constabulary.”
And 48th Fighter Wing commander, Colonel Robert Novotny, paid tribute to Major Sareen this afternoon.
He said: ““We’re deeply saddened by the loss of the Marine aviator’s life yesterday, and here at RAF Lakenheath we stand ready to assist in any we can.
“The squadron had a successful combat deployment in the Middle East, and then to have an accident like this on their way home was tragic.
“This pilot was not a Lakenheath or Mildenhall Airman, but we’ve poured our hearts and souls into the response like it was. We only get one chance to make this right.
“It’s times like this that highlight the great alliance we have with the UK, working side-by-side during the response efforts and securing the crash site.”
He added: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of this Marine, as well as with the Red Devils and everyone at Miramar as they endure this tragedy.”
Eyewitness Patrick Turner said he saw a “fireball” between 300ft and 400ft above buildings near the crash site.
The plane was one of six F/A-18Cs heading back home after serving in the Middle East.
The other five were diverted to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.