Fly Navy, the official Twitter feed for USA naval forces, confirmed the operation was underway.
"We're looking for an aviator out there, hoping for the best", said Capt. Jim Bates of the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific. The pilot's family was notified earlier Thursday of the death declaration, an official said on the condition of anonymity.
After a day of research, the US Navy announced the death of the pilot of a single-seat F/A-18E Super Hornet jet that crashed in Death Valley National Park, California. Military flights are now banned in almost all national parks, but after an exception was made for certain parts of Death Valley, the canyons of park became the training grounds for pilots practicing low-altitude maneuvers.
The downed jet, part of the "Vigilantes" strike force based more than 200 miles away at a naval base in Lemoore, California, went down around 3 p.m. EST.
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The injured tourists told the news station they were taking photos of the sweeping landscape when the jet screamed into view and suddenly slammed into the canyon wall.
A military helicopter is searching for the pilot.
A man who heard jets roaring through the area and then a cloud of smoke told the Associated Press that "it looked like a bomb".
As a general rule, military jets are not allowed to fly over national parks, but an exception was made over this section of Death Valley when it became a national park 25 years ago. Officially, the chasm is called Rainbow Canyon but has been known by its nickname for decades because of colorful rock walls reminiscent of Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker's native planet of Tatooine, according to NPS.
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Temperatures at the crash site were in the low 100s Wednesday. The cause of the crash remains under investigation, officials said this month.
Rangers on Wednesday found seven injured visitors at the overlook, Taylor said.
Bates said that the training was a scheduled low-level flight.
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