DEATH VALLEY, CA — At 9:50 a.m. on Wednesday, July 31, Death Valley National Park received a report of a potential plane crash in the western portion of the park near Rainbow Canyon. Responding rangers reported scattered debris and seven visitors with minor injuries.
Dispatchers immediately contacted Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Resources from multiple agencies including the Navy, National Park Service, Caltrans, California Highway Patrol, Inyo County, and Lone Pine Fire were dispatched to the incident.
The public is requested to avoid stopping in the area near Father Crowley Vista Point to allow emergency responders to work safely. The parking lot will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time and there may be delays on CA-190.
On August 1, the Navy confirmed that the pilot died in the crash. In accordance with policy, the name of the pilot will be withheld for 24 hours following the notification of next of kin.
“Our hearts go out the family and friends of the pilot,” said Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “Death Valley is proud of our unique role as a training ground for the military and we mourn the loss of this brave pilot. We’re also relieved that the injuries to the seven bystanders were not more severe.”
Rainbow Canyon, commonly called Star Wars Canyon, is part of the R-2508 Complex which the military has utilized since the 1930s. The California Desert Protection Action, which created Death Valley National Park in 1994, stipulated the continuation of military overflights in the park.