WASHINGTON – Remains of an Air Force pilot who had been missing since his F-15E fighter jet went down in Iraq on April 7 have been recovered and identified, the Pentagon said Friday.
The search for the plane's weapons system officer is continuing, it said.
The pilot was identified as Capt. Eric B. Das, 30, of Amarillo, Texas. His status was changed from missing to killed in action.
The Pentagon provided no details on when or how his remains were recovered. It said the whereabouts of the other crew member, whose name has not been released publicly, is still unknown.
It was unclear Friday whether only one set of remains was found at the crash site or whether additional remains were found but had not yet been positively identified.
The fighter jet was reported to have been shot down near Tikrit, although the Pentagon has never publicly confirmed that.
Das' parents, Bruce and Rosie Das, issued a statement saying their son was killed on Sunday evening April 6, which was early Monday morning in Iraq. They said he was on a bombing mission in an F-15E Strike Eagle over northern Iraq when the plane went down under undetermined circumstances.
"Eric is a son that exemplified what faith in Christ, honor and duty and a life of excellence meant," the statement said. "His strong faith was an inspiration to our family, friends and his fellow servicemen, and to all who knew him."
Das and his wife, 1st Lt. Nikki Das, were both deployed to the Persian Gulf for the Iraq war, the Das family said. They were married in Amarillo on Oct. 20, 2001 and lived in Goldsboro, N.C.
An Air Force spokeswoman, Maj. Linda Haseloff, said Das' remains were found at the crash site, but she had no other information on the circumstances under which the remains were recovered.
Haseloff said the location was classified secret. She did not know when the recovery was made or by whom.
Das was assigned to the 333rd Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Wing, based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.
With the Das identification and the death Thursday of an Army soldier in Kuwait, the number of Americans killed in the Iraq war rose to 128, the Pentagon said.
Army Cpl. John T. Rivero, 23, of Gainesville, Fla., died from injuries sustained when his Humvee utility vehicle overturned in Kuwait on Thursday. The Pentagon provided no other details. Rivero was assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Division at Eustis, Fla.
Two are still listed as missing -- the other F-15 crew member and Army Sgt. Edward J. Anguiano, 24, of Brownsville, Texas, missing since his convoy was ambushed March 23 in Iraq.
No Americans are listed as prisoners of war. A Navy pilot, Michael Scott Speicher, who was shot down over Iraq in an F/A-18 fighter on the opening night of the 1991 Gulf War, is listed as "missing-captured," and a U.S. intelligence team is in Iraq looking for clues to his fate. He originally was declared killed in action, but his status was changed to missing in action and then "missing-captured," to reflect unconfirmed indications that he was once in Iraqi hands.