LINCOLN COUNTY, Washington — All three people on board a military plane flying from Naval Air Station Whidbey were killed Monday when the plane crashed about 50 miles west of Spokane, according to the sheriff’s office.
A Navy EA-6B Prowler fell from the sky near Coffee Pot Road and Duck Lake Lamona Road between Harrington and Odessa around 8:30 a.m. Monday, U.S. Navy Lt. Kakiel told KREM-TV. Witnesses said the plane was in a nose dive just before impact in a rural farm field.
One man living nearby said he heard an "incredible boom" and saw a large plume of smoke. Joel Cronrath said he went toward the scene and saw wreckage from the crash.
Cronrath said he drives a bus, and often sees military fighter jets training in the area, performing difficult maneuvers. The Navy said the crew members in this instance were conducting routine training flight prior to the crash.
Authorities kept the media and neighbors about a mile away from the scene. Personnel told KREM rocket launchers may have been on board the plane, and officials are not sure if they went off.
KREM also talked to Stan Dammel, the manager of the Odessa airport. Dammel said he flew over the scene after hearing of the crash. All he could see was a charred spot on the ground with debris scattered.
The crash scene is said to span over two miles. There are not any signs left of the plane, but the collision left a large crater in the ground.
Officials said the three victims' bodies were still in the wreckage. Their names were not expected to be released until Tuesday, after families have been notified.
According to the U.S. Navy's website, the EA-6B Prowler is primarily used for the suppression of enemy air defenses in support of strike aircraft and ground troops. It's nearly 60 feet long and can carry a pilot and three other officers.
The Prowler belongs to the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ-129), also known as the Vikings, at Whidbey Air Station.
Naval Air Station Whidbey sent a new release about the incident at 11:30 a.m., but officials said they did not have many details to release.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement Monday afternoon regarding the crash:.
“Trudi and I send our thoughts and prayers to the families of the Navy aviators who died this morning when their Prowler jet crashed in Eastern Washington. The crew of that jet was serving the people of the United States, as so many do from bases in Washington State, and we will be forever indebted to them. I thank them for their service. I know all Washingtonians join me in sending condolences to the crew’s families and to their fellow service members whose duty to country often puts them in danger’s way.”