The head of the Navy’s Aviation Schools Command and and a fellow Navy aviator were killed Wednesday after a private plane they were flying in crashed near Selma, Alabama, officials confirmed Friday.
Capt. Vincent W. Segars and Cmdr. Joshua “WITS” Fuller were flying in a Piper Turbo Lance II late Wednesday afternoon when they declared an in-air emergency and made their way to Craig Field, a private airport, according to Navy officials and Dallas County, Alabama, Coroner William Dailey.
They were the only two on board.
The plane was flying from Jasper, Alabama, back to Pensacola, Florida, when the crash occurred, which Dailey described as a “high-velocity impact with the ground.”
It crashed about five miles out from the field, he said.
First responders were called to the scene at 4:37 p.m., he said, and a crop duster in the air at the time was able to quickly point responders to the crash site.
“In so many times it takes some time to locate the crash,” Dailey said.
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“We are saddened by the deaths of Capt. Vincent Segars…and Cmdr. Joshua Fuller,” Cmdr. James Stockman, a spokesperson for Naval Education and Training Command, said in a statement.
“We are coordinating with the Federal Aviation Administration and local law enforcement to conduct an investigation,” he said. “We cannot provide any additional information as this is an ongoing investigation.”
The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed via Twitter that it is investigating the crash.
Originally from South Carolina, Segars had led the Aviation Schools Command since April 2018, according to service records.
Retired Navy captain and fellow aviator Baron Reinhold wrote on Facebook Thursday that he was “overcome with grief” over the loss of Segars, a man he called “my retirement speaker, dearest friend, and the best Naval officer I’ve ever known.”
“Everyone that knew Vince respected him,” Reinhold wrote. “He was a man of conviction and lived with a sense of purpose.”
A Florida native, Fuller would have hit the 20-year anniversary of his commissioning later this month, according to service records.
He had arrived at Naval Aviation Schools Command in November.
Before that, he commanded Training Squadron 86, also in Pensacola.
“As I make my final approach toward the end of my career, I am honored to have helped shape the future of Naval Aviation and that’s something I will treasure,” Fuller said as he handed over the reins of VT 86 during a change-of-command ceremony in November. “The Navy’s mission success depends on the exceptional men and women among its ranks and there are none greater than the Sabrehawks I served alongside here.”
Fuller “brought a real sense of family to the squadron, and that can make a difference between a good tour and a great tour,” Capt. Scott Janik, the commodore of Training Air Wing 6, said at the ceremony. “A consummate professional, I could always trust him to make the right decisions for the good of the mission.”
About Geoff Ziezulewicz
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.