The Marine Corps has now identified a pilot based out of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar in San Diego who was killed in an F/A-18C Hornet crash in Twentynine Palms, California, this week.
According to the Marine Corps, Maj. Richard Norton, 36, – a pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, Marine Aircraft Group 11, stationed at MCAS Miramar – died around 10:30 p.m. Thursday in the jet crash during a training mission. His death was announced Friday, and further details were released Saturday.
Officials said the single-seat aircraft had departed from MCAS Miramar “to perform a close air support mission” as part of a training exercise taking place at Marine Air Ground Combat Center (MAGCC) at Twentynine Palms when the aircraft crashed.
The cause of the deadly crash remains under investigation, officials said Saturday.
“My heart goes out to our Marine’s family as we support them through this difficult time," said Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, commanding general of 3rd MAW, in a press release Saturday.
Officials said Norton was a native of Arcadia, California, commissioned in the Marine Corps March 25, 2005. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, and also deployed to Japan several times.
Over his military career, Norton was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with gold star, according to the Marine Corps.
“Losing Maj. Norton is a tremendous loss to the MAG-11 Team,” said Col. William Swan, commanding officer of MAG-11 in a press release. “He was one of the best and brightest Hornet pilots our nation had to offer – our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Twentynine Palms is located in San Bernardino County, about 175 miles northeast of San Diego County.
“This Marine was a top performer, stellar Marine by all accounts,” Swan told NBC 7. “Unfortunately the nature of our job as Marines is inherently dangerous.”
Maj. Norton leaves behind a wife.
The Wingman Foundation, a non-profit that provides post-mishap support for the Navy and Marine Corps aviation community and their families, is collecting donations for Norton's family.