VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Navy officials have released the identities of the two aviators killed Wednesday in Key West after their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed during a training flight near Naval Air Station Key West.
Lt. Cmdr. James Brice Johnson and Lt. Caleb Nathaniel King, both Florida residents, were part of the “Fighting Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron 213, which is based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.
Johnson, the pilot of the Super Hornet, was a 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. King, the weapons systems operator, was a 2012 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
The two were recovered in the water approximately a mile east of the Boca Chica Field runway after the crash around 4:30 p.m. The two later died after being taken to the hospital.
“The entire Blacklion Family is grieving the loss of two great Americans. Lt. Cmdr. Johnson and Lt. King were phenomenal young men, exceptional Naval Aviators, and were living models of what Honor, Courage, and Commitment really mean,” said Cmdr. Kevin Robb, VFA-213’s commanding officer, in a release. “As warfighters they excelled in combat, as Naval Officers they exemplified the qualities of what our Navy values most dear. I was extremely proud to have led, flown, and served with both Brice and Caleb,” Robb said. “I would ask that during this trying time we all keep the families of our two heroes in our thoughts and prayers.”
Their Super Hornet will remain in the water near NAS Key West as the Navy’s Mishap Investigation Board conducts an investigation into the crash. The board is comprised of highly-qualified aviation officers.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and squadron mates of these two aviators,” said Rear Adm. Roy J. Kelley, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic. “A full investigation will be conducted to discover the cause of this mishap.”