Pilot killed in England identified as San Diego man - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Pilot killed in England identified as San Diego man

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/ CNS) - The U.S. Marine fighter pilot that was killed Wednesday when his F-18 crashed after taking off from a British air base in eastern England was identified as 37-year-old Maj. Taj Sareen.

Sareen had taken off from a U.S. Air Force Base in Suffolk when his fighter-jet crashed into a field, going up in a large fireball. 

According to witnesses, the plane made a lot of noise as it was going down, but they credit Sareen for maneuvering the plane away from homes.

Sareen did manage to eject, but did not survive.

Sareen, a member of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, had been overseas as part of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Central Command 15.2, in support of allied military interventions against the Islamic State.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fellow Marines of Maj. Sareen, and we are currently providing support to those affected by this tragic incident," said Maj. Gen. Michael Rocco, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The Marine was on his way home from a six-month deployment to the Middle East. He lived in a condo complex in downtown San Diego. 

In 2011, Sareen spoke with CBS News 8 when then Mayor Jerry Sanders flew in an F-18 C Hornet at MCAS Miramar. Even back then, it was easy to see he loved his job. 

On Thursday, neighbors remembered him as a friendly guy. Friends remembered him as someone who always looked out for others and enjoyed every moment in life. 

His friends took to social media to remember him. 

"You've been more than an amazing friend, and Julien and I are both so proud of you and your service to others. It doesn't surprise me one bit that you did everything you could to protect the homes and families below your plane," wrote one friend. 

One of Sareen's best friends wrote, "I lost one of my best friends. Taj couldn't make it to my birthday […] because he selflessly volunteered to serve his third tour oversees. Just a few days ago we were chatting about celebrating his return. Love you like a brother. Miss you already."

Sareen, a native of Hillsborough in the San Francisco Bay Area, joined the Marine Corps in February 2005. In 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Taj Sareen is survived by a daughter. 

His personal awards include two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and an Air Medal Strike/Flight "5".

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