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Two dead after fleeing SUV crashes into Navy fighter jet

By
Amy R. Connolly
A U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet, similar to the one see here, was damaged when an SUV crashed through the gates at Lemoore Naval Air Station. The driver and passenger of the vehicle, which was being pursued by police, died. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
A U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet, similar to the one see here, was damaged when an SUV crashed through the gates at Lemoore Naval Air Station. The driver and passenger of the vehicle, which was being pursued by police, died. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

FRESNO, Calif., April 1 (UPI) -- Two people who were allegedly leading police in a high-speed chase died after their SUV crashed through the gates of Lemoore Naval Air Station in California and hit a fighter jet.

California Highway Patrol said the male driver and a female passenger, who were not identified, drove 7 miles into the military installation and passed at least one armed security and other barriers before hitting the tail section of a parked F/A-18 Super Hornet. The driver died at the hospital. The passenger died at the scene.

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The air station's commander, Capt. Monty Ashliman, said it was not a targeted attack. Neither person appeared to have military affliation, he said.

"Regardless of procedures we have in place, something went wrong and we had a tragic accident," Ashliman said. "We had some damage to an aircraft and we had two losses of life so we've got to figure out a way to prevent that from happening in the future."

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CHP said the chase began when officers stopped along a highway to help what appeared to be a stranded Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Jeep sped away when the officer approached, setting off the chase. The chase was called off when the car began driving against traffic, but picked up again with officers on the ground and in a CHP helicopter in pursuit.

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CHP Lt. Dave Knoff said the pursuit lasted about 20 minutes.

"As far as why they were running, we don't have that information at this time," he said.

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Lemoore currently has 15 active F-18 fighter jet squadrons and one auxillary squadron. In the coming years, the base is expected to expand to house about 60 percent of the nation's naval fighter jets.

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