July 31, 2019 / 7:11 PM / in 18 days

U.S. Navy fighter jet crashes in California's desert near base

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S. military fighter jet crashed on Wednesday in California at a national park near a Navy air station, leaving the fate of the pilot unknown and injuring seven park visitors, according to military officials and media reports.

The F/A-18E Super Hornet went down at about 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT), Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock, public affairs officer for the Joint Strike Fighter Wing, said in a written statement.

Search and rescue crews have scoured the crash site, east of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, Bock said.

The jet went down in Death Valley National Park and seven park visitors suffered minor injuries from the crash, National Public Radio reported, citing a park official.

Authorities closed a parking lot near the site, according to the website for Death Valley National Park, which is on the border between California and Nevada.

The crash occurred near an area that is often called “Star Wars Canyon,” because fighter pilots are known to maneuver their planes through the canyon like the fictional X-Wing Starfighters in the “Star Wars” movie franchise, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The cause of the crash was under investigation, Bock said.

Reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington and Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Alistair Bell and Richard Pullin

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