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At 7.45pm on Tuesday 7th December 1982 a United States F-111F aircraft, tail number 70-2377 crashed fatally and spectacularly on Sgurr na Stri. Maj Burnley L. Rudiger and 1 Lt Steven J. Pitt were killed.
Major Rudiger (37) , the pilot, was from Virginia USA and 1st Lieutenant Pitt (28), the aircraft's weapons systems officer, was from New York. Both men left a wife and two children who were, at that time resident in the south of England. Major Rudiger was highly experienced, having flown F-111s since 1969.
The aircraft was stationed at the American Air Force base at Lakenheath, Suffolk, England and it was on a night time automatic-flying training exercise. Although the aircraft had terrain-following radar, which theoretically enabled it to fly on auto pilot at heights as low as 200 feet, something went horribly wrong and it flew straight into the rock face of Sgurr na Stri.
The accident was witnessed from Elgol by John Alec MacKinnon, a local man who was 17 at the time and who contacted the local police. He described a huge fireball which made it look as if the whole mountain was on fire. The aircraft was not carrying live weapons, so presumably this was the fuel load, since Sgurr na Stri is more or less solid rock.
The aircraft had been flying in company with a second F-111 which stayed in the area until an RAF rescue helicopter arrived.
The accident was also witnessed by a group of climbers who were spending the night in a hut at Camasunary, less than a mile from the crash. They also described a huge red fireball which lit up everything for miles around.
The climbers joined an RAF rescue team which arrived by helicopter about an hour and a half later and the combined party then split up and climbed the mountain by two routes. Shortly after midnight they arrived at the crash site, one party camping there overnight, the other returning to Camasunary. The remains of the aviators were brought down at 10am on Wednesday morning by a fresh rescue team.
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