The Marine Corps has identified the pilot killed when his F/A-18C Hornet crashed in England Wednesday morning.
Maj. Taj Sareen, 34, was wrapping up a six-month deployment with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force — Crisis Response — Central Command when his plane crashed near Royal Air Force Lakenheath at about 10 a.m. local time, according to a Marine Corps news release. The crisis response unit was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the military's fight against the Islamic State Group.
Sareen, of Hillsborough, California, was assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. He commissioned in the Marine Corps in February 2005 and previously deployed with VMFA-232 to Afghanistan in 2010.
He was also an instructor at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101. Sareen had earned two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, as well as one Air Medal: Strike/Flight "5."
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fellow Marines of Maj. Sareen, and we are currently providing support to those affected by this tragic incident," said Maj. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which oversees VMFA-232.
ABC 7 News reported that Sareen had a young daughter and graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2004. An ABC 7 photographer who went to college with Sareen called him generous, humble and passionate.
"He died doing what he loved and, at the end of the day, he wouldn't want to be mourned," said Chris Jewett in the ABC 7 report. "He'd want to be remembered and celebrated as someone who was a great guy."
At the time of the accident, the single-seat Hornet was traveling with five other aircraft from Bahrain back to Miramar. The other aircraft safely diverted to nearby RAF Lossiemouth, according to a Marine Corps news release.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.