WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Recovery efforts are now complete for the F-35B Lightning II aircraft that crashed last month in a wooded area of Williamsburg County in what officials are still calling a “mishap.”
The U.S. Navy Region Southeast On-Scene Coordinator team has been working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in conducting aircraft recovery and environmental remediation operations near Hemingway after the jet went missing and crashed on September 17. Recovery began just days later.
“After the wreckage was securely moved to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, our focus shifted to environmental cleanup and remediation of the land,” said Sarah Murtagh, Navy On-Scene Coordinator.
Officials say the goal is for the impacted area to be free of contaminants and the conditions set for natural growth.
“Soil sampling confirms the effectiveness of our cleanup efforts,” explained Murtagh. “While the natural vegetation may take some time to regrow, we mitigate the impacts by helping the land recover as quickly as feasible.”
Remediation efforts included the removal of certain vegetation, like underbrush and trees, in order to remove the aircraft’s wreckage and limit additional impacts on the environment.
“It is purposeful, sometimes tedious work,” said Murtagh. “I hope that the thorough job of removing contaminants we have done here underscores the Navy and Marine Corps’s commitment to ensuring the safety and environmental integrity of this beautiful area.”
Representatives from the Navy are still meeting with property owners, lessees, and other individuals near the crash site to discuss any other needs and concerns.
“The patience and understanding of the local residents has played a crucial role in our success,” said Murtagh. “On behalf of the entire team here, we extend our heartfelt thanks to the wonderful people of Williamsburg County.”
A pilot ejected from the aircraft while over a North Charleston neighborhood – and not far from Joint Base Charleston – on September 17. The aircraft went missing shortly after and was likely set on autopilot. It was discovered to have crashed in a rural wooded area of Williamsburg County the following day.
The so-called mishap is still under investigation.