WILLIAMSBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Clean-up and recovery continues this week in Williamsburg County after an F-35B Lightning II aircraft crashed into the woods near Old Georgetown Road earlier this month.
A pilot ejected from the aircraft while over a North Charleston neighborhood – and not far from Joint Base Charleston – on September 17 in what military officials are calling a “mishap.” 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.
Crews with the Navy Region Southeast On-Scene Coordinator program, which is based out of Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida, arrived on Sept. 19 to begin recovering and removing the wreckage and specialists are being brought in to determine any impact on the surrounding area as crews begin an environmental restoration.
“The first priority of our team was to recover the wreckage and begin relocating it to a secure location,” explained Sarah Murtagh, Navy On-Scene Coordinator.
“We will remove damaged timber and crops as necessary at the crash site and sample soil to determine the boundaries of the area that will need to be restored,” added Murtagh. “Our goal is to return the property as close to its original condition as we can.”
Representatives from the U.S. Navy have been meeting with property owners, lessees, and others who live or own businesses near the crash site to discuss the restoration process.
“We appreciate the overwhelming support we have received from the Navy On-Scene Coordinator team as well as the community, and I would like to thank the local law enforcement and other agencies of Williamsburg County and South Carolina for their quick, professional response,” said Colonel Mark D. Bortnem, the Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC.
There is no estimate for when the environmental restoration will be completed.
The U.S. Navy Region Southeast On-Scene Coordinator team, Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing are leading the aircraft recovery and environmental cleanup in the county.
The so-called “mishap” remains under investigation.