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Beale identifies deceased pilot in plane crash, grounds U-2 flights

Bleak scene remains after deadly military plane crash sparks 250-acre fire

Smoking, burnt vegetation fanned out from the site where a military plane crashed Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, on the lower slopes of the Sutter Buttes in the Sacramento Valley. Two pilots on board the aircraft during a training mission ejected before
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Smoking, burnt vegetation fanned out from the site where a military plane crashed Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, on the lower slopes of the Sutter Buttes in the Sacramento Valley. Two pilots on board the aircraft during a training mission ejected before

U-2 flights out of Beale Air Force Base have been suspended indefinitely after the crash of a spy plane Tuesday left one pilot dead and a second pilot injured.

The deceased was identified as Lt. Col Ira S. Eadie, according to base officials. A Florida native, Eadie was married with six children, according to Jacksonville, Fla., television station WJXT.

Public records indicate Eadie’s family now lives in Lincoln.

At their home on a quiet cul-de-sac, two men sat in a parked car out front, one wearing a military uniform. A third man dressed in athletic attire blocked the path of a reporter and said the family didn’t wish to speak. No one answered the front door. A child’s crying could be heard inside, where the lights were on.

The injured second pilot suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is recovering at a local hospital.

Officials at a Wednesday news conference said they had little information on what caused the plane to crash in the Sutter Buttes on Tuesday morning shortly after taking off from its home base at Beale.

Civilians and 60 Air Force personnel from Beale worked to rescue the pilots, who ejected from the plane before the crash, said Col. Danielle Barnes. The pilots were recovered using all-terrain vehicles.

No details were provided on the pilots’ location or how long it took to get to them.

“It’s a somber time but our people are still focused on the mission at hand,” of securing the site and preserving evidence, said Barnes, who offered “heartfelt condolences” to the lost pilot’s family.

The aircraft was assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, where the U-2 fleet is based and its 33 planes are deployed to military detachments around the world. Over 1,000 personnel work on the U-2 program at the base near Marysville.

While the military says the cost of a U-2 is classified, the military information site GlobalSecurity.org puts the price tag of the current model at $400 million. In 2012, the Air Force said it had spent $1.7 billion over eight years to modernize the aircraft with new flight and surveillance technology.

Ed Fletcher: 916-321-1269, @NewsFletch

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