The body of the fighter pilot who went missing during a training mission over the Adriatic Sea Jan. 28 was recovered early this afternoon by an Italian vessel.
Capt. Lucas Gruenther, 31st Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, Aviano Air Base, Italy, was conducting a nighttime training sortie when contact was lost with his F-16 Fighting Falcon.
“Captain Gruenther was an outstanding officer who epitomized what it means to be an Airman,” said Brig. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist, 31st FW commander. “He was not only a first-rate pilot; he was an exceptional leader whose presence will be sorely missed.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Gruenther family during this difficult time,” added the general. “Words cannot adequately express how sorry we are for your loss.”
Gruenther was an Air Force Academy graduate and flew numerous combat sorties during a six month deployment to Afghanistan in 2011.
Gruentherís family released the following statement.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that the body Capt. Lucas Gruenther was found in the Adriatic Sea this afternoon. A compassionate husband, a loving son, and a devoted brother; Luc leaves behind a family who loves him dearly and a legacy of achievement. We will never fully recover from our loss, but take heart in the knowledge that during his all-too-short time in this world, he made a significant difference in the lives of all whom he met.
“We would like to thank the people around the world for your messages and your prayers. We especially want to extend our deepest gratitude to the many people who volunteered their time and resources to help bring Luc home.”
A board of officers will investigate the incident.