Navy pilot killed in crash at 'Star Wars Canyon' in Death Valley identified

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Posted at 1:47 PM, Aug 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-02 16:47:38-04

(KGTV) — The Navy pilot killed when his F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft crashed in California desert this week has been identified.

Lt. Charles Z. Walker, 33, died in the Wednesday crash in a canyon in Death Valley National Park. Officials say the military aircraft was conducting low-level training about 40 miles north of Naval Weapons Station China Lake.

“The NAS Lemoore aviation family is grieving the loss of one of our own,” said Capt. James Bates, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific commander, said. “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. Our aviators understand the risk associated with this profession, and they knowingly accept it in service to our nation.

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”The untimely loss of a fellow aviator and shipmate pains us all. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends," Bates added.

The aircraft was assigned to the “Vigilantes” Strike Fighter Squadron of VFA-151 based at NAS Lemoore in California's Central Valley. The cause of the crash was still under investigation Friday.

Seven French tourists were also injured by shrapnel from the crash and treated for minor cuts and burns.

Tourists commonly visit the area of the crash to watch aircraft speed through the skies. The area has gained the nickname "Star Wars Canyon" because of the manuevers jets perform that callback to similar images in the film's battle scenes.