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‘I’m not sure where the airplane is. … I ejected.’


By Jennifer Henderson and Ray Sanchez, CNN

(CNN) — After an F-35 fighter jet disappeared into the South Carolina sky, a 911 operator received a confounding call.

“I guess we got a pilot at our house and he says he got ejected from the plane,” said the caller, asking for an ambulance.

“I’m sorry, what happened?” the operator asked, according to a recording obtained by CNN.

“We got a pilot in the house, and I guess he landed in my backyard and we’re trying to see if we can get an ambulance to the house, please.”

“We’re getting help on the way,” the operator said, before the pilot took the phone.

“We had a military jet crash,” he said. “I’m the pilot. We need to get rescue rolling.”

And then he added: “I’m not sure where the airplane is. It would have crash-landed somewhere. I ejected.”

The $100 million fighter jet had gone missing.

It would be found hours later, and miles away, triggering a Pentagon investigation into the “mishap” that forced the pilot to eject near Charleston on Sunday.

In the immediate aftermath, the 911 operator processed what the pilot had just said.

“OK, I understand, sir,” she said.

The 47-year-old pilot said he fell more than 2,000 feet, but a Marine official said Monday the fighter jet was flying at 1,000 feet when the pilot ejected.

“What caused the fall?”

“An aircraft failure.”

The 911 operator asked if there was serious bleeding.

“I don’t know. I can’t see myself.”

The 911 caller interjected, “No, you look fine… just a couple scratches.”

“I feel OK. My back just hurts,” the pilot said. “Has there been a report of an airplane crash?”

“I have not seen any,” the operator said.

The jet’s debris field – about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston – was discovered Monday after a multi-agency search on the ground and from the air. Authorities had made an unusual plea to the public for help finding the jet. The pilot was taken to a local medical facility in stable condition.

On the phone Sunday, the operator had asked where the pilot was injured:

“Ma’am, I’m a pilot in the military aircraft and I ejected. So I just rode a parachute down to the ground. Can you please send an ambulance?”

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Nouran Salahieh, Oren Liebermann and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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