By RYAN GORMAN
Military officials have identified the pilot of an F-15 jet that crashed earlier this week in Virginia.
Lt. Col. Morris "Moose" Fontenot Jr. died when his plane crashed into mountains in a remote part of western Virginia. The 1996 U.S. Air Force Academy graduate was a member of the 104th Fighter Wing based in Massachusetts.
Search crews found Fontenot's body after a two-day search following the accident, Col. James Keefe announced Thursday at the Massachusetts Air National Guard, in Westfield, Massachusetts.
"On behalf of the family of our fallen pilot and with a sense of profound sadness, I am sad to share that Lt. Col. Morris "Moose" Fontenot Jr., was killed tragically in Wednesday's F-15 crash," Keefe said in a Friday afternoon statement.
A team of over 100 local, state and federal officials, including volunteers, looked for the pilot after he was reportedly seen by witnesses ejecting out of the F-15 as it hurtled toward the ground.
Morris was an experienced pilot with more than 2,300 hours of flights under his belt. He was a full-time Wing Inspector General and responsible for the implementation of the Air Force Inspection System, the military said.
He crashed the plane while flying from his home base in Westfield to Naval Air Station New Orleans, according to the Air National Guard. It was due to receive a radar upgrade.
Authorities previously shot down reports Fontenot had ejected from the plane, saying the ejection seat was found still inside fighter jet.
Air traffic control is said by the military to have lost contact with the fighter at 9:05 Wednesday morning.
The doomed pilot radioed for help only minutes earlier. Those were his last known words.
Fontenot was a decorated airman who served active duty assignments in Washington, D.C., Japan, Idaho, Florida, Alaska and numerous missions in the Middle East, officials said.
He earned several combat medals including the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, and Combat Readiness Medal, authorities said.
The jet left a massive crater but caused no injuries to other people after it roared into the ground early Wednesday. A massive debris field was left behind.
No ammunition was onboard the plane, which was flying at an altitude as high as 40,000 feet shortly before the incident.
An investigation remains ongoing.