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Authorities Call Off Search for Missing F-16 Pilot

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2009 – Authorities are still looking for the wreckage of an Air Force F-16 fighter jet that crashed with its pilot into the Atlantic Ocean off South Carolina’s coast last week.

An official at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C., said today that there is nothing new to report since authorities announced Oct. 17 that Air Force Capt. Nicholas Giglio likely didn’t survive a mid-air collision with another F-16.

Shaw is the home of the 20th Fighter Wing, to which the jets belong.

Two F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft on a routine training exercise collided over the Atlantic Ocean about 40 miles east of Folly Beach, S.C., around 8:30 p.m. Oct. 15. The pilot of one plane, Air Force Capt. Lee Bryant, was able to safely land his damaged jet at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

Giglio, the other pilot, was reported missing. Coast Guard officials in Charleston, S.C., announced Oct. 17 that they were suspending the search-and-rescue operation.

“In spite of an intense search conducted by hundreds of professionals from the Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force, we have found no trace of Capt. Nicholas Giglio,” Air Force Col. Joe Guastella, 20th Fighter Wing commander, told reporters that day.

Preliminary investigation of the accident, Guastella said, revealed that the mid-air impact probably proved fatal to the pilot, who wasn’t seen to have ejected from his stricken aircraft.

Authorities at Shaw pledged to make every effort to recover Giglio’s aircraft and his remains.

“The thoughts and prayers of all of us at Shaw are with Nicholas Giglio, his family, and his friends,” Guastella said.

Coast Guard searchers found crash debris believed to belong to Giglio’s F-16 jet the day after the accident.

“The Coast Guard has found some debris in the ocean that is apparently from our missing F-16,” Robert Sexton, chief of public affairs at Shaw Air Force Base said during an Oct. 16 telephone interview with American Forces Press Service.

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