Memorial Service Set For Harrier Pilot

Marines at Cherry Point will remember today the pilot who died in last week's Harrier crash.

Captain Alberto Bencosme died on December 29th when his AV-8B Harrier crashed in some woods adjacent to the air station.

A memorial service for Bencosme will be held today at 3:00 p.m. at the air station chapel.

Marines Say Harrier Had Caution Light Before Crash

The Marine Corps says a Harrier jet that crashed Monday was returning to Cherry Point after a cockpit caution light came on.

Killed in the crash was Captain Alberto Bencosme of Miami, Florida.

Marines say shortly after takeoff, the light indicating the Harrier's canopy latches may not have been fully seated came on. They say Bencosme was returning to the air station as a precaution when the jet crashed.

Relative Remembers Bencosme

A relative of a fallen Marine pilot says his cousin died doing what he loved.

Captain Alberto Bencosme died Monday when his AV-8B Harrier jet crashed in some woods near Cherry Point.

H. Peralta, Bencosme's cousin, told WITN News that the 27-year-old came to America when he was in junior high school and went on to Miami Dade College and aviation school before joining the Marines.

"Aviation was something he always spoke about, he wouldn't watch too much TV or do anything that would jeopardize his dream of becoming a pilot," says Peralta.

Peralta believes Bencosme died while trying to steer his troubled jet away from nearby homes.

The cousin says his family is in shock, "They are very shaken up about this. We just buried his father in September, so its a shock within three months we lose the son. It's a shock to everybody, but everyone has the understanding that this is something he wanted to do, and the risk that was involved...but no one wants their 27-year-old relative to die, you know."

Marine's Release Name Of Pilot

Marine Corps officials have released the name of the pilot killed when he crashed about a mile short of the runway at Cherry Point.

Officials said Tuesday that Marine Corps Captain Alberto Bencosme was returning from routine training when he crashed about 12:30 p.m. in an unpopulated area near the air station. Officials have said no one else was hurt in Monday's crash.

Bencosme was a member of Marine Attack Training Squadron 203, based at Cherry Point.

The Marine Corps won't released Bencosme's hometown, but we do know he enlisted into the Marines in Miami in November 1997. He was commissioned as an officer in November 2004 and obtained the rank of captain on December 1st.

During his time in the corps, Bencosme received two selected Marine Corps Reserve Medals, a Global War on Terror Service Medal, and a National Defense Service Medal.

Officials say the investigation into the crash is continuing.

Another Harrier crashed in February near Cherry Point, but the pilot wasn't injured. In May, a two-seat training model of the Harrier crashed in Arizona, but the pilots ejected safely.

Monday's Story

The pilot of a Marine Corps jet that crashed near the Cherry Point Air Station is dead.

The AV-8B Harrier crashed in a wooded area off the runway in Havelock around 12:15 p.m. A plume of smoke could be seen at the intersection of Highway 101 and Ferry Road.

The Marine Corps says the crash occurred while the jet was returning from a routine training flight. The aircraft was assigned to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 at Cherry Point.

Mark Siler told WITN News that he leases the land from Weyerhaeuser. He said he heard the jet make "whinnying noises". Siler says flames were 100-200 feet in the air and he saw no signs of the crew.

Air Station spokeswoman Gunnery Sergeant Reina Barnett says the group of hunters tried to approach the downed jet, but the flames were too intense.

The pilot’s name is being withheld pending notification on next of kin. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.

This is the third crash this year of a Harrier from Cherry Point. In May a jet on a training mission in Arizona crashed in the desert, while in February another Harrier crashed in Carteret County near Open Ground Farms. The pilots in those accidents survived the crashes.

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