The U.S. Navy has identified the F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot who was killed on Jul. 31, 2019 a crash in Death Valley National Park, Calif.
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Lt. Charles Walker, 33, died when his aircraft crashed about 40 miles north of Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, Calif.
“The NAS Lemoore aviation family is grieving the loss of one of our own,” said Capt. James Bates, commander of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific.
“Lt. Walker was an incredible naval aviator, husband and son. He was an integral member of the Vigilante family and his absence will be keenly felt on the flight line,” Bates said. “Our aviators understand the risk associated with this profession, and they knowingly accept it in service to our nation. The untimely loss of a fellow aviator and shipmate pains us all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Walker’s F/A-18E Super Hornet jet was assigned to the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 and based at Naval Air Station Lemoore.
The crash remains under investigation, according to Navy officials.
Seven park visitors suffered minor injuries. The injured were French tourists from the same family, according to KABC-7. Most suffered nicks, cuts and burns from shrapnel. One person who was more seriously injured with burns on her back was taken to a Los Angeles-area hospital for treatment.
Walker was commissioned in December 2008. Before that, he was in the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida.
Walker was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 195 based in Iwakuni, Japan, in 2012 following his naval aviation training. He joined VFA-151 in February 2018, and had a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, according to his personnel records.
At the time of the crash, Walker and another pilot were conducting routine training in Rainbow Canyon, a common training spot for military aviators. Dubbed “Star Wars Canyon” due to its likeness to one of the desert planets in that movie, it’s a popular site for aviation enthusiast to gather to catch sight of the low-flying maneuvers military pilots practice during training flights.