Small community of Deerfield hosts a large search effort following fighter jet crash

It was announced Thursday night that the missing pilot of the F15C fighter jet that went down near Deerfield died in the crash.  Evidence was found at the crash site Thursday afternoon showing the pilot did not eject from the plane according to Brigadier General Robert Brooks of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, who spoke at a 10:30pm press conference at the Deerfield Volunteer Fire Department.  The pilot’s name was not released during the Thursday night press conference.

This sad news brings to an end the enormous amount of activity that has enveloped the small community of Deerfield since the crash took place on Wednesday morning.  The Deerfield Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad serves the community of 130 people, but for almost two days it was the command center for over 30 agencies and about 150 people who came to search for the pilot.

On Thursday, while the search was still underway, Deerfield residents shared their experiences and their thoughts about this tragedy in their small community.

Vanessa Bussard is the Assistant Fire Chief for the Deerfield Volunteer Fire Department.  She said her department kept units ready to respond to other emergencies in the community that may come up and also had an ATV unit participating in the search.

“Well, soon as it crashed we responded to the scene,” says Bussard.  “Of course we had to be on standby, because we couldn’t go to the scene because of toxic fumes, but we responded right away.   I just thank the community for coming together.  We always have plans laid out just in case something like this would happen, resources to call in.”

The crash sent many Deerfield residents, including Kay Howard, scrambling around their homes and properties to find an explanation for the noise and the shaking.

“I mean it was boom,” says Howard.  “I thought it was the bowling ball, like, hitting the floor.  But then when I went upstairs, it wasn’t.  So I said ‘Oh God, the second boom was the gas tank’. So I ran back downstairs. Third boom was the mushroom cloud.  That’s when the plane evidently hit.”

Eddie Shinaberry was working in his store, Deerfield Grocery, when the crash happened.

“We just heard a boom and then a boom, boom and the windows shook and the doors shook and we didn’t know what it was right off,” says Shinaberry.  “It’s just a little old place here, you know.  They’re doing the best they can up at the fire department.  I think they’re handling it pretty good.”

Tina Simmons was just about to get into her car when she heard the crash.

“We knew it was an explosion, but that was about it,” says Simmons.  “And I did pray for the situation.  That everything would be alright and the workers that were going out and the fire department would be safe.”

At the Thursday night press conference officials said the investigation into the cause of the crash and the clean up at the site will take several weeks.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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