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F-16 pilot cleared in fatal collision

The Air Force says the pilot was not at fault in the Manatee crash that killed a flight instructor.

An F-16 fighter pilot who was flying off course when he collided with a Cessna, killing its pilot, was not at fault, the Air Force ruled Monday.

Col. Stephen T. Sargeant said he reviewed a report of more than 500 pages by an Air Force accident investigation board in making his decision.

"Although Capt. Greg Kreuder was involved in the accident, I did not find any indicators that warrant disciplinary action against him," Sargeant said.

The collision occurred Nov. 16. Jacques Olivier, a flight instructor from Hernando County, was killed in the crash.

Kreuder was following lead pilot Lt. Col. James Parker on his way from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia to a bombing range in Central Florida.

But navigational problems led the pilots out of their military flight zone at 480 mph, more than 180 mph faster than federal and Air Force guidelines allow in airspace below 10,000 feet near airports.

Olivier died instantly in the crash, his Cessna scattered over a Bradenton country club. Kreuder ejected and parachuted to safety before his plane crashed into woods.

The second F-16 on the training mission was not involved in the collision.

While noting that he was deeply saddened by Olivier's death, Sargeant said Monday the crash report cleared Kreuder. As wing man, Kreuder was not responsible for navigation.

But Olivier's family insists that the pilots bear blame.

"The Air Force can continue to cover up for its pilots. A court of law cannot," said Howard Coker, who is representing Olivier's wife and daughter in a $10-million claim against the government.

It will be up to the Moody Air Force Base commander to decide whether Parker, who is to retire from the Georgia air base at the end of the month, will face charges for his role in the crash.