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Search continues for missing pilot

Posted 1/29/2013   Updated 1/30/2013 Email story   Print story


31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

1/29/2013 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- U.S. and Italian search teams are continuing efforts in the Adriatic Sea to find and rescue a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who was declared missing during a nighttime training mission Jan. 28.

Capt. Lucas Gruenther, 31st Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, was conducting a training sortie in an F-16 Fighting Falcon when contact was lost with his aircraft at approximately 8 p.m. Italian aircraft and ships were quickly dispatched to the jet's last known location, 10 to 15 nautical miles east of Cervia, Italy.

Italian search teams recovered debris in the Adriatic Jan. 29, which is believed to belong to the missing jet. Through the day, U.S. military resources joined the search including an Air Force HC-130 from U.S. Africa Command and a rotation of Navy P-3s from U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

"We are dedicating all available resources to the search and rescue operation," said Brig. Gen Scott J. Zobrist, 31st Fighter Wing commander. "I'm grateful to the many Italian and U.S. professionals who are executing this mission. I am hopeful that we will bring him home safely.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Captain Gruenther and his family," Zobrist continued. "I personally appreciate the efforts of the many people who are supporting the Gruenthers in this difficult time."

More information will be released as it becomes available. A board of officers will investigate the incident.

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