Death of Mass. Air National Guard pilot in crash called 'devastating'

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(MyFoxBoston.com) -- The body of the Mass. Air National Guard pilot who crashed in Virginia was found Thursday.

The pilot was fatally injured in the crash Wednesday of an F-15C Eagle in the mountains near Deerfield Valley, Va. The pilot's name will not be released until family members are notified.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and we are doing all we can to support them during this very difficult time,” said Col. James Keefe, Commander, 104th Fighter Wing in a release. “We ask that everyone respect the privacy of the family and allow them the time they need to grieve."

The last time the Air National Guard base in Westfield experienced a crash was back in 1999, but the pilot in that incident survived.

Before discovering the pilot's remains at the crash, there was some hope that he had been able to survive and get out of the plane before it crashed. A large search and rescue operation had been underway Wednesday and Thursday.

The pilot was flying the fighter jet to New Orleans for routine maintenance when something went wrong, and the pilot made a distress call, declaring an emergency.

Governor Deval Patrick released the following statement Thursday evening: "This is a very sad day for the Guard and for Massachusetts. Throughout the last couple of days, as we learned the circumstances of this accident, we held out hope that the pilot would be found and returned safely to his family. Our prayers and condolences are with his family, the Wing Command and all the Members of the Massachusetts National Guard."

The investigation into the crash remains ongoing.