A U. S. Navy F/A-18F Superhornet fighter jet crashed in the water near the Naval Air Station Key West late Wednesday afternoon, killing the two Naval aviators on board.
The two crew members were ejected and rescue crews initially recovered them from the water, the Navy tweeted Wednesday evening.
Late Wednesday, the Navy updated the situation with news of their deaths.
“We are sad to report that both aviators have been declared deceased,’’ the Navy tweeted. “Their families are in our prayers.’’
The aviators were flying near Key West when the two-seat jet crashed around 4:30 p.m. They were recovered by helicopter about one mile east of the runway and taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center, said Cmdr. Dave Hecht, public affairs officer for Naval Air Force Atlantic.
“The plane was on approach,” he said.
The crew is based at the U.S. Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach and was in Key West “conducting a training flight,” Hecht said.
Witnesses said it appeared the plane experienced some sort of explosion in the air.
“I saw the fire and then it just dropped,” said Barbie Wilson, who lives nearby and was driving when she saw the plane turn sideways and then burst into flames.
“In the air, I saw fire,” Wilson said.
The F/A-18 Superhornet has a pilot and a weapons systems operator, according to a statement released by Naval Air Force Atlantic.
“The cause of the mishap is currently under investigation,” the statement concluded.