By Greg Rasa, Seattle Times
All three crew members on a Navy jet based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island were killed this morning when their aircraft crashed in Eastern Washington’s Lincoln County, Navy officials have confirmed.
The crew’s names will not be released until 24 hours after their families have been informed, said Lt. Aaron Kakiel in San Diego.
The crew was flying an EA-6B Prowler jet assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-129. It crashed about 9 a.m. into a field in an unpopulated area near the town of Harrington, about 50 miles west of Spokane.
A spokesman for the Whidbey base confirmed that the crashed jet was based there. Whidbey is home to EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E Aries reconnaissance aircraft are also based there.
The Spokane Spokesman-Review reported that a pair of Navy jets were operating in the area, according to Magers. The other plane reported the crash and then returned to base because it was low on fuel, he said.
The Grumman EA-6B Prowler. (Naval Air Systems Command photo)
Stan Dammel, manager of the Odessa Municipal Airport, told the Spokane paper he flew over the crash site and photographed it.
“It looked like an ink spot down there,” Dammel said
The type of electronic-warfare plane that crashed today had been involved in crashes in the past. Among them:
In 2006, after an EA-6B Prowler from the Whidbey Island base crashed near Pendleton, Oregon, the Navy ordered a half-day grounding for all its aircraft for an internal safety review, according to The Associated Press. In 1992 and again in 2001, crews parachuted to safety when their Prowlers crashed on the Olympic Peninsula. In 1998, three crewmen were lost overboard when a Prowler crashed into another jet on the deck of the USS Enterprise. Four died in a 1996 crash near Yuma, Ariz., and three died in 1992 near El Centro, Calif.
In 1993, an A-6E Intruder, the plane the EA-6B is based on, collided with a crop duster over the Palouse near Diamond, Whitman County. The pilot of the crop duster was critically injured, and the Navy crew parachuted to safety.
And in 1998, the Marine pilot of a EA-6B Prowler severed a ski-gondola cable near Cavalese, Italy, sending the 20 people aboard the gondola on 350-foot plunge to their deaths.
The EA-6B Prowler was first stationed at Whidbey Island in 1971 and deployed to Vietnam in 1972.