LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- The sole occupant of a military jet died when the aircraft crashed in a residential neighborhood near Nellis Air Force Base on Monday.
The crash was reported at 2245 N. Christy Lane, near Judson Avenue, about 2:30 p.m. on May 24. The scene of the crash is south of Nellis Air Force Base.
We are aware of an incident involving an aircraft associated with Nellis Air Force Base. We will provide updates as they become available.— Nellis Air Force Base (@NellisAFB) May 24, 2021
Nellis officials said a "contractor-operated aircraft that took off from Nellis Air Force Base crashed at approximately ... outside the southern edge of the base."
NTSB confirmed the aircraft was a Dassault Aviation Mirage F-1.
The NTSB is investigating the crash Monday of a Dassault Aviation Mirage F-1 in Las Vegas, Nevada. An investigator is traveling to the crash scene.— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) May 25, 2021
Nellis public affairs representatives said the aircraft that crashed is owned, operated and piloted by Draken US, a Florida-based company contracted to the base. The company confirmed the pilot died in the crash:
Draken has received news of a downed aircraft out of Nellis AFB and the tragic loss of one of our pilots. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people and families affected by this event. We are doing everything in our power to assist them in this time of need, and we are working closely with federal, state and local authorities. Draken US is also cooperating with investigating agencies to determine what led to this tragic accident.
Nellis officials offered their condolences to the friends and family of the Draken wingman, who has not yet been publicly identified. No other personnel were on board.
"Draken is working closely with Federal, State, and Local authorities as well as cooperating with investigative agencies such as NTSB to determine what led to this tragic accident," a Draken representative said in a statement Tuesday.
Witnesses reported heavy smoke in the area following the crash.
"We heard the jet. It was really loud and it just stopped. Classes outside saw it," said a school clerk with Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.
Parents were notified the school was ordered to temporarily shelter in place.
"All we saw was the smoke and then the fire engines coming by," said Brittany Guervara, who lives in the neighborhood. "We started seeing a helicopter from Nellis that was on the flight line earlier It came out and started circling the smoke, and at that point some guy came over and said he saw a fighter jet landing, and we kind of knew right then it was a fighter jet crash."
Guervara said she saw a "big" explosion. "I wasn't really sure what it was, I thought maybe a house caught on fire or something. Then I got a call from my dad hearing that it was a fighter jet that went down."
Another woman who lives in the neighborhood, Rhonda Barnes, said she started praying when she saw the aircraft coming down into the neighborhood.
Both Barnes and Guervara said the electricity went out in the neighborhood for roughly 30 seconds at the time of the crash.
"As the plane went down, he went down behind a house, where the [power lines] were. That's where we heard the big boom. The fumes went up in the air like fire, and I began to pray if it was a family or a house he hit," said Barnes.
Barnes said the proximity of the site to the elementary school is concerning.
"In the morning, the jets fly, and they get lower and lower and lower," said Barnes. "I think it's kind of dangerous. We have this school with these kids, and at the time, they were out there playing."
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said he and his wife, Kathy, join "all Nevadans in keeping his family, friends and loved ones in our prayers during this difficult time."
"Devastated to learn that a pilot involved in the crash [Nellis AFB] has died. Praying for the pilot's family and the entire base and Air Force community," said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
“I am incredibly saddened by today’s crash in East Las Vegas of a contractor-operated aircraft taking off from Nellis Air Force Base,” said Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, whose district includes Nellis AFB and the site of the crash. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the pilot and the larger Nellis AFB family. Today’s tragedy is a reminder of the important work being done every day at Nellis in defense of our nation.”
The crash was the first out of Nellis since Thunderbirds pilot Maj. Stephen Del Bango of Valencia, California, died in April 2018 during a training flight over the Nevada Test and Training Range.
In September 2017, an Air Force pilot died after a crash about 100 miles northwest of Nellis.