LEMOORE, Calif. -- Investigators were combing through the wreckage Thursday of an F/A-18F Super Hornet for clues to the crash that killed two Navy aviators the day before.
Lt. Matthew Ira Lowe, 33, and Lt. Nathan Hollingsworth Williams, 28, died during a training mission when their fighter jet crashed into a Fresno County farm field west of Lemoore Naval Air Station in Central California.
"They were doing an independent training flight," said Melinda Larson, the base spokeswoman.
She said it's common for flight teams to practice independently.
A Navy review board convened Thursday at the base to investigate the cause of the crash; details about the crash will not be released until the investigation is completed, which could take several weeks.
Both pilots lived in an upscale northwest Hanford neighborhood, about a block from each other and 15 miles from the base.
A woman who answered the door at Williams' home said the family was grieving and did not wish to be interviewed. A large group had gathered at Lowe's home, but friends and family members also declined comment.
James Crawford, Lowe's neighbor, said Lowe fit well into the community.
"He was a very cordial individual, easy to talk to and a good neighbor," Crawford said.
Williams liked to play Frisbee with his dogs in the street, said neighbor Diana Black.
He and his wife, who works as a nurse in Fresno, are "very good neighbors," she said. "We were very heavy-hearted and shocked because they're so young."
Both aviators were members of a flight replacement squadron, which means they could be instructors or training for a new aircraft, Larson said.
Lowe, from Plantation, Fla., received his commission through Officer Candidate School in 2003. He was designated a pilot following training from November 2002 until July 2006. Lowe reported to the Lemoore squadron in July 2009. During his career he earned the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
Williams, a native of Oswego, N.Y., who served as the Super Hornet's weapons systems officer, received his commission through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Rochester in New York in 2004. He reported to the Lemoore squadron on Jan. 25, 2010.
He was designated a naval flight officer after training from August 2004 through February 2007. His first squadron assignment was in Norfolk, Va. During his career he earned the Air Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment ribbon and Pistol Marksmanship Medal.
On Thursday, the area surrounding the crash site, between the dirt extension of Jameson Avenue and the western boundaries of the base, was guarded and remained closed to the public.
On a nearby farm, Manuel Juarez said he saw the F/A-18 Super Hornet maneuvering in the skies to his south while he ate his lunch Wednesday.
"It went up and down and then back up," he said as his boss Beto Guzman translated. "Then he went straight up and down into a nose dive and he didn't pull out of it."
Juarez said he then saw a large explosion across a flat expanse of farmland.
He looked into the sky to see if the airmen had ejected, but saw nothing.
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