A farmer who was working yards from where a jet fighter crashed is certain the pilot’s last actions saved his life.
Gary Sizer says he wants the world to know the US Marine Corps pilot Major Taj Sareen spent his last moments steering his F/A-18 Hornet jet away from buildings at Redmere, about six miles from RAF Lakenheath last Wednesday.
Mr Sizer and his father were working in barns next to the field where Maj Sareen’s jet crashed soon after taking off from Lakenheath for the US Marine Corps (USMC) base at Mirmar in California.
He said: “He’s like a guardian angel. His heroism saved mine and my dad’s lives but he sacrificed his own life. He must have left it until the last second to eject.
“I was in the shed and dad was in front of it. I can’t describe what happened in that shed – I was watching the walls vibrate. I thought the shed was going to come down.”
He thinks Maj Sareen must have seen him drive a forklift from one shed to another immediately before the crash.
A spokesman for Miramar marine base said Maj Sareen was deployed as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 15.2 and was returning with his squadron after a six-month deployment against so called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Maj Sareen, 34, a native of Hillsborough, California, was previously deployed with VMFA-232, one of the corps oldest squadrons nicknamed Red Devils, to Afghanistan in 2010 and was an instructor at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101.
A website has been started in memory of Maj Taj Sareen to raise money to support his one-year-old daughter Jade later in life.
It was started by Annie Driscoll, who had known him from their pilot training in 2005.
Ms Driscoll wrote: “This is to also serve as a way for people to tell Jade about the amazing man her father was.
“To teach her about his incredible character and allow his story to live on thru her.
“100% of the funds will be Jade’s and the family will set a trust fund for her until she is ready to receive this amazing gift.”
The website had raised more than $45,000 in the first three days.
The site is at www.gofundme.com/inmemoryoftaj