Neighborhood witnesses rush to help F-35 pilot after crash

Oct 20, 2022, 9:12 PM | Updated: 11:43 pm

LAYTON, Utah — The people who live and work just north of Wednesday’s F-35 crash site heard and saw the situation unfold, with some rushing up the hillside to see if the pilot was OK after seeing him eject from the jet.

KSL spoke to several neighbors who live all around the area of the crash Thursday. Even if people didn’t hear or see the crash, they saw the smoke and watched the fire burn through brush just up from their homes.

The F-35 went down near the runway, which sits on top of a hill overlooking the South Weber area. Several neighborhoods sit in the valley, with a clear view to the top.

Hill F-35 pilot released from hospital, crash investigation underway

Scott Cook, who lives down the hill and has property bordering Hill Air Force Base, could tell by the sound that something had gone wrong. Then he went outside, and saw a blaze ignite near the runway.

“We know right where the runway is, and I know if there’s smoke coming off that, that something’s gone bad,” he said.

Two other nearby residents told KSL they each happened to be standing outside when the F-35s flew over. One man explained he was sitting on a horse in a field behind his grandparents’ home. He frequently watches the F-35s and described hearing a noise he had never heard before, and one of the aircrafts suddenly dip. He described seeing the pilot eject from the jet into the trees in the hill below, while the F-35 crashed on the ground.

He talked about how a second F-35 was right behind, and ended up flying away toward Salt Lake.

Another person a couple houses away described stepping outside after hearing a loud noise and knowing something was off. He explained seeing the pilot with a parachute already heading toward the ground, as the F-35 banked left, and then dropped and crashed.

That man said he ended up driving into the hills and hiking up to look for the pilot, who he found with paramedics already on scene. He said the pilot told him the pilot only had about five seconds to make the decision to eject from the plane before it crashed.

He said others nearby had also gone up to see if the pilot was OK.

Cook didn’t make it over to the pilot but did go up into the hillside after it caught fire.

“I knew it was a plane probably, so we just drove the four-wheeler around and got underneath it, and could tell that it was coming over the hill — the fire, so we called 911,” Cook recounted.

He watched fire fighters respond and begin working on the small grass fire that ensued. Cook was worried about toxic fumes drifting toward his home, but said luckily the wind was blowing in a different direction.

Everyone expressed relief that the grass fire didn’t spread, and that the pilot survived and will be OK.

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Neighborhood witnesses rush to help F-35 pilot after crash