FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) — A source told WPDE Monday evening that military ground crews have found parts and debris associated with the F-35 Lightning II Jet just off Indian Town Road in Florence County.
Community members in the area also told WPDE that they heard loud noises in the area Sunday night.
The aircraft went missing on Sunday after its pilot safely ejected from the aircraft over North Charleston. The debris is about 80 miles from the area where the pilot ejected.
The pilot was transported to a local medical center and is stable, according to Joint Base Charleston on Sunday. A spokesperson confirmed the aircraft was placed on autopilot before the pilot ejected.
Joint Base Charleston said in a statement that officials are using both ground and air assets in the search.
Based on the jet’s last-known position and in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, on Sunday, search efforts are focused around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion. However, a source told ABC 15 that the search area as of Monday morning is near Lake City in Lower Florence County and Williamsburg County.
Military police and the Florence County Sheriff's Office helicopter are parked outside the South Lynches Fire Department. The chopper is being used to help the military search for the missing aircraft.
Joint Base Charleston said they are coordinating with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing out of MCAS Cherry Point, Navy Region Southeast, the FAA, the Civil Air Patrol, as well as local, county, and state law enforcement across South Carolina.
WPDE reached out to the Marine Corps’ Public Affairs Office and a lieutenant in that office said they would call back with information.
Officials continue to refer to the incident as a "mishap" and have not shared details as to why the pilot ejected.
The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing said the incident is under investigation and additional details could not be provided in order to "preserve the integrity of the investigatory process."
"The Department of the Navy has a well-defined process for investigating aircraft mishaps," officials said.
The circumstances of the missing fighter jet are leaving people puzzled. On Sunday night, South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace took to X with questions.
"How is there not a tracking device and we're asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in," her post read in part.
Anyone with information on the F-35's whereabouts is asked to contact the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.
Charleston County Sheriff's Office officials Monday told residents not to touch or move any piece of aircraft they may find. Instead, they said to call the number above.