Wilkes Barre Times-Leader January 13, 2006
Navy jet crash kills W-B native
Elizabeth Bonn, 23, and three others died Tuesday morning during a training exercise. The craft's wreckage was found in Georgia.
By Mark Guydish
WILKES-BARRE – A 23-year-old Wilkes-Barre native and Coughlin High School graduate died Tuesday in a U.S. Navy flight training crash.
Ensign Elizabeth Bonn was one of two students in the four-man crew when the jet crashed into a remote hillside in northwest Georgia, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said Thursday evening.
“She was in the training pipeline to be winged,” Aandahl said, “I believe as a navigator.”
Ensign Bonn’s parents, Debbie and Thomas Bonn, traveled to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., where their daughter had been stationed, Aandahl said. They were declining interviews with the media.
Ensign Bonn, a 2000 graduate of Coughlin High School, was killed with Navy Lt. Jason E. Manse, 30, of Omaha, Neb.; Air Force 1st Lt. Jason W. Davis, 28, of Vista, Calif.; and retired Navy Cmdr. Dave Roark, 68, a private contractor pilot from Pensacola, Fla.
All four were making a round trip training exercise from Pensacola to Chattanooga, Tenn. Aandahl said he wasn’t sure of Ensign Bonn’s specific role, but that she was most likely conducting navigation exercises. They were flying a Navy Sabreliner T-39 jet belonging to Training Squadron 86 based in Pensacola.
Ground crews lost contact with the jet at about 11:20 Tuesday morning, and a massive search was conducted, covering a swath of Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.
A Georgia State Patrol Helicopter spotted the crash site Wednesday evening at about 10 p.m. on Johns Mountain near the town of Villanow, about 30 miles south of Chattanooga., according to CNN. A press release said the crash site was “in the remote, heavily wooded and rugged terrain of the Chattahoochie National Forest.” A “Navy mishap investigation team” was dispatched to the site to determine the cause of the crash.
While the jet lost contact Tuesday morning and was found Wednesday night, the Navy did not release names of victims until Thursday evening because it is policy “to wait 24 hours after next of kin have been notified,” Navy Spokesman Lt. Herb Josey said.
A friend of the Bonn family, who did not want his name published, said both parents have been heavily involved in the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, and that Ensign Bonn had earned the Girl Scout’s highest honor, the Gold Medal. She also played soccer, softball and field hockey in high school. She went straight from Coughlin to the New York Maritime Academy, where she earned her commission before pursuing flight training. She was expected to earn her wings in the next few months.
The jet was apparently practicing low-level bombing runs at the time of the crash. Captain Lee Little, a pilot in charge of Training Wing 6 based at Pensacola, said the plane would have been flying at between 500 and 1,000 feet.
“They are practicing running at a low level to a target and dropping the bombs,” Little said. “We don’t carry bombs on these aircraft, but they are simulating what they would be doing in a tactical aircraft.”
Sabreliners are used for training navigators and other non-pilot air crew officers for the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and foreign military services.
This might be the first training mishap for Squadron 86 in a quarter century. According to information at www.globalsecurity.org, the squadron “has logged more than 332,000 mishap-free flight hours and has the distinction of maintaining the longest documented accident-free period of any active flying squadron in aviation history.”
The site also says that naval flight officers who complete training with the squadron “go on to fly either the S-3 Viking, EA-6B Prowler, F-18 Hornet, or the F-14 Tomcat.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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