FRESNO, CA --A wrong-way driver leading authorities on a high-speed chase crashed through a gate and into a fighter jet at a central California naval base, killing himself and a passenger, authorities said Thursday.
The Navy base does not appear to be an intended target, and the man and woman who died were not affiliated with the military, said Capt. Monty Ashliman, commander at Naval Air Station Lemoore. He said authorities are investigating what started the chase and how the driver broke through the secured gate.
"Regardless of procedures we have in place, something went wrong and we had a tragic accident," Ashliman said. "We have got to figure out a way to prevent that from happening in the future."
Authorities say the chase began off the base late Wednesday, when a California Highway Patrol officer stopped to check on a Jeep Grand Cherokee parked on the roadside. The driver sped off, driving erratically and going the wrong way at one point on highway south of Fresno.
The CHP does not know why the SUV fled, Lt. Dave Knoff said.
The driver eventually left State Route 198, smashed through a gate at the base and hit the FA-18E Super Hornet parked about 7 miles inside the base, Ashliman said.
He said the chase lasted about 15 minutes.
The passenger died at the scene, and the driver died at a hospital. Authorities have not released their identities.
The SUV hit the jet's horizontal stabilizer, but officials have not detailed the damage. The jet will be fully inspected before it takes flight again.
Naval Air Station Lemoore, built in 1961, has two runways and hosts four Carrier Air Wings.
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