Gruenther crash to be probed

Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat

Air Force officials are still unsure what caused the Monday airplane accident that killed Capt. Lucas Gruenther, of Twain Harte.

Maj. Erick Saks, spokesman for the 31st Fighter Wing in Italy, said Thursday that a board of officers will investigate.

"We're going to do everything we can do to find out what happened," he said.

The accident occurred about 8 p.m. during a training exercise over the Adriatic Sea. Gruenther, flying an F-16, lost contact with the Aviano Air Base. The Associated Press reported that visibility was poor at the time.

A massive international search effort followed. Search teams found debris from Gruenther's plane Tuesday, including his helmet and parachute.

Gruenther's body was recovered Thursday afternoon by an Italian vessel, according to the 31st Fighter Wing.

The Wing's commander expressed condolences to Gruenther's family.

"Capt. Gruenther was an outstanding officer who epitomized what it means to be an Airman," Brig. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist said in a statement. "He was not only a first-rate pilot; he was an exceptional leader whose presence will be sorely missed. ...Words cannot adequately express how sorry we are for your loss."

Gruenther's wife, Cassy Gruenther, is in Italy and a few weeks away from delivering the couple's first child - a girl named Serene.

Both Cassy and Lucas Gruenther graduated from Summerville High School in 1999.

Gruenther served six months in Afghanistan before being stationed in Italy.

The Union Democrat
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