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Navy bomber crashes on training mission

BOARDMAN, Ore. -- Two fliers from Washington's Whidbey Island Naval Air Station were killed Friday in a crash of their low-level attack bomber during a training mission over the eastern Oregon desert.

Navy officials identified the dead as Lt. Cmdr.

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Dave Vaughn, a pilot instructor, and Lt. Gary Abe, a student bombardier-navigator. Their ages and hometowns were not released.

The plane and crew were based at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station near Oak Harbor, Wash.

The two-seat A-6E attack bomber crashed about 1 mile south of Oregon's Boardman Bombing Range after leaving Whidbey on the routine training mission, Navy spokeswoman Mary Ann Heiserman said.

Spokeswoman Mary Ann Graham said a team of Navy investigators flew to the crash site from Whidbey Island. She said details of how the crash occurred were not known.

The training bombing range is spread over 47,000 acres of sagebrush and desert in northeast Oregon near the Columbia River.

Bomber crews routinely streak southeast from Washington state on mock bombing runs and drop 'inert' dummy bombs on the range at Boardman for practice, Graham said.

The A-6E is a high-speed, low-level bomber designed to drop ordnance from low altitudes in all types of weather. The two-engine plane is 54 feet long and has a wingspan of 53 feet.

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The plane and crew were part of 128th Attack Squadron, a training group for pilots and navigators.

Graham said the squadron last had an accident in September 1973. The last crash of an A-6E from Whidbey was in July 1984, she said.

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