The body of a missing pilot was found in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Italy. The F-16 fighter jet and its pilot went missing on Monday during a nighttime training exercise.
Both the Italian and American military forces participated in the search for Captain Lucas Gruenther, according to The Los Angeles Times. They recovered debris from the aircraft earlier in the week, including the missing pilot’s parachute and his helmet.
Gruenther was 32 and grew up in Twaine Harte, California. He acted as chief of flight safety for the 31st Fighter Wing. He was stationed at Aviano Air Base in Italy. His family’s statement read, in part:
“A compassionate husband, a loving son, and a devoted brother, Luc leaves behind a family who loves him dearly and a legacy of achievement. We will never fully recover from our loss, but take heart in the knowledge that during his all-too-short time in this world, he made a significant difference in the lives of all whom he met.”
The body of the missing pilot was found on Thursday afternoon, according to the statement. The Washington Post notes that his family also thanked “the many people who volunteered their time and resources to help bring Luc home.”
Gruenther’s mother flew to Italy on Tuesday, along with his mother-in-law. His wife, Cassy Williams, is already living in Italy. She is currently expecting the couple’s first child.
It is not clear if the missing pilot’s body will be taken back to the United States for burial. It is also not clear what caused Gruenther’s F-16 jet to crash.
[Image via Tech. Sgt. Brett R. Ewald (DefenseLINK) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]