Photo: via U.S. Air Force
The pilot of an Air Force F-16 that went down in the Adriatic has been found dead after a massive three day search by Italian and American armed forces.We reported Monday that an American F-16 flying in formation out of Aviano Air Base in Italy had lost radio contact and went down somewhere in the Adriatic — today search teams found the body of Captain Lucas Gruenther.
Italian news site Romagna Noi reported Gruenther’s body was found around 2 p.m. about 15 miles off the coast of Pesaro, where it was recovered by an Italian coast guard patrol boat.
According to Romagna Noi, Gruenther was wearing his flight suit, but a family member had to officially identify the body before news of the discovery could be released.
Generally, all pilots have GPS locators attached to their flight suits. Why Gruenther’s didn’t work or under what circumstances the Air Force couldn’t find him is certainly of interest.
An earlier report on Stars and Stripes indicated that the pilot had communicated some kind of malfunction. From the report:
The U.S. pilot signaled a “problem” but did not specify what it was and then communications were lost, officials from Aviano reportedly told Italian wire service ANSA.
But Saks said the U.S. and Italian air forces had not released any information regarding possible “chatter” between the F-16 and the base or other aircraft.
ANSA also reported that traces of jet fuel were found at the port of Ravenna. Saks said he could neither confirm nor deny that report.
The Air Force made no officials statement to corroborate reports made by the Italian Media, but the investigation is still underway.
His family released a statement:
“It is with great sadness that we announce that the body Captain Lucas Gruenther was found in the Adriatic Sea this afternoon. A compassionate husband, a loving son, and a devoted brother; Luc leaves behind a family who loves him dearly and a legacy of achievement. We will never fully recover from our loss, but take heart in the knowledge that during his all-too-short time in this world, he made a significant difference in the lives of all whom he met.
“We would like to thank the people around the world for your messages and your prayers. We especially want to extend our deepest gratitude to the many people who volunteered their time and resources to help bring Luc home.”
We’ll update you as we receive more information.
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