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Marine Corps called 911 to report missing F-35 jet in South Carolina after 'mishap'

Newly released audio files show that the Marine Corps called 911 after one of their F-35 fighter jets went missing in South Carolina last September.

The F-35 experienced what Marine Corps officials referred to as a "mishap" over the skies of the state's Lowcountry region on Sept. 17, 2023, according to military authorities.

The pilot survived after reportedly being ejected from the jet and parachuting down to a residential neighborhood in North Charleston, but the F-35 continued traveling until it disappeared from view, prompting officials to try to track down its location.

"I believe we potentially have an aircraft that went down in Williamsburg County earlier today," a major from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort told a Williamsburg County 911 dispatcher.

"You believe you have an aircraft that went down in Williamsburg County?" the dispatcher asked in response.

"That is correct," the major replied. "We are trying to look for it and we are coming up dry so far."

PHOTO: In this stock photo a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is seen on Oct 7, 2021. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)
PHOTO: In this stock photo a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is seen on Oct 7, 2021. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)

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The call, which was one of dozens of files obtained by ABC News under South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act earlier this month, shows that on the day of the crash, the Marine Corps was able to provide coordinates of the area where they believed the jet went down.

It was previously unclear whether the F-35's transponder was functioning during the incident.

Dispatch audio shows that a medical crew was subsequently assigned, with a dispatcher informing them that there was believed to be one person aboard. The crew was then told to disregard the alert after officials learned that the pilot was safe, but the jet was still missing.

Other Williamsburg County dispatch recordings show confusion locally over where the remains of the jet could have been since there was limited information at the time.

"If it's military and they've got a helicopter, they'll find it quicker than us," one official said. "They've got more resources than we do."

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Williamsburg County was not the only place where residents and first responders were baffled by the incident. In Charleston County, a previously released 911 recording showed that a resident called law enforcement after being surprised that the F-35's pilot landed in their backyard. The resident even handed the phone to the pilot, who explained the situation to the dispatcher.

Updated grid coordinates of possible locations where the jet may have crash landed were later provided to Williamsburg County emergency officials. A field of debris from the F-35 was found the day after the jet went missing in a rural area near the border of Williamsburg and Florence counties which is more than 75 miles from the neighborhood where the pilot landed.

It is not yet known what caused the incident, which led to a roughly $100 million loss.

The Marine Corps announced in September that the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing would conduct the investigation and that it would likely continue for several months.

Marine Corps called 911 to report missing F-35 jet in South Carolina after 'mishap' originally appeared on abcnews.go.com