Missing F-16 Pilot’s Body Recovered

An Italian vessel on the Adriatic Sea on Thursday recovered the body of F-16 pilot Capt. Lucas Gruenther, announced officials at Aviano AB, Italy. Gruenther had been missing since Monday when contact was lost with his F-16 during a nighttime training mission over the water. He was chief of flight safety for Aviano’s 31st Fighter Wing. “Captain Gruenther was an outstanding officer who epitomized what it means to be an airman,” said Brig. Gen. Scott Zobrist, 31st FW commander, in the Jan. 31 release. “He was not only a first-rate pilot, he was an exceptional leader whose presence will be sorely missed,” added Zobrist. Gruenther was an Air Force Academy graduate and flew numerous combat sorties during a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2011, states the release. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Gruenther family during this difficult time,” said Zobrist. The family issued a statement on Thursday. “We will never fully recover from our loss, but take heart in the knowledge that during [Lucas’] all-too-short time in this world, he made a significant difference in the lives of all whom he met,” it reads. An Air Force board will investigate the incident.