Pilot killed in crash at Shaw Air Force Base ‘loved his family, his country and he loved to fly’

SUMTER, S.C. — A U.S. Air Force pilot died Tuesday when an F-16 crashed during a training mission Tuesday night at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, officials said.

Update 8:50 a.m. EDT July 2: Officials identified the U.S. Air Force pilot who died Tuesday in a crash during a routine training mission at Shaw Air Force Base as 1st Lt. David Schmitz of the 77th Fighter Squadron.

“Last night we lost one of our very best, Lt. David Schmitz,” said Col. Larry Sullivan, commander of 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base. “He died conducting a training sortie here in South Carolina as his squadron, the 77th Gamblers, is preparing to deploy overseas for combat operations.”

Sullivan said Schmitz, who earned his pilot’s license at 17, “loved a lot of things.”

“He loved his family, his country and he loved to fly,” Sullivan said. “He enlisted in the United States Air Force and served with distinction as a load master the C-17s supporting some of our nation’s most sensitive missions. And he never gave up on his lifelong goal of flying for the United States Air Force as a pilot.”

Sullivan said Schmitz was commissioned through officer training school, where he graduated at the top of his class.

“Our condolences go out to the Schmitz family, to the Gamblers and to all of team Shaw,” Sullivan said.

Update 4:12 a.m. EDT July 1: The pilot of the F-16CM Fighting Falcon that crashed has died, base officials said.

The name of the pilot is being withheld until next of kin are notified.

“Out of respect and consideration for the family, we ask for your patience and to avoid speculation until we release more information,” officials said.

Original report: The cause of the crash and status of the pilot are unknown, WLTX reported.

The F-16CM Fighting Falcon with a single pilot on board was on a routine training mission when it crashed around 11:30 p.m., WLTX reported.

Check back for more on this developing story.