The family of missing Air Force Captain Lucas Gruenther is remaining optimistic that he will be found safe.
Controllers lost contact with his F-16 after it took off from Aviano Air Force Base in Italy on Monday evening. The Tuolumne County native was conducting a night training mission, and the last sighting of the plane was nearly 10-15 miles off the coast of Cervia in the Adriatic Sea.
“If anyone could survive something like this, it would be Luc,” says wife Cassy, in a statement released by the 31st Fighter Wing’s public affairs office. “Luc is a self reliant outdoorsman who would sleep every night under the stars if he could. He’s a sky diver, he’s a rock climber and he’s a certified scuba diver. He is also a health nut and in great shape.”
In the statement from the 31st Fighter Wing, the family noted that Cassy is weeks away from delivering the couple’s first child, which they have named Serene.
The ongoing search effort includes aircraft and ships from the U.S. and Italy. According the family, the U.S. military has confirmed finding debris from the aircraft including Gruenther’s drogue parachute and helmet.
“The drogue chute is a good sign,” adds Cassy. “It means he ejected, and we’ve been told the helmet is in good condition.”
Captain Gruenther graduated from Summerville High School in 1999. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2003.