Cambridgeshire

Last photo of US jet crash pilot Maj Taj Sareen emerges

Taj Sareen Image copyright Matthew Varley
Image caption Maj Taj Sareen was the only pilot to wave at photographer Matthew Varley

The family of a US pilot who died when his jet crashed in a field said they were "thankful" after the last known photo of him emerged, showing him waving on the runway.

Maj Taj Sareen was killed when his jet came down at Temple Farm in Redmere, Cambridgeshire, on 21 October.

The image was taken the day before the crash, at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.

Matthew Varley, 23, from Horning, Norfolk, captured the shot and said it was a "sad and poignant tribute".

Image copyright Matthew Varley
Image caption Maj Taj Sareen died when his jet came down in October

Maj Sareen, from Hillsborough, California, was returning home from a six-month tour tackling so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria when the accident happened.

His friend Capt Annie Driscoll created a fund for his 16-month-old daughter Jade, which has raised nearly £50,000.

The US Air Force helicopter pilot, who met Maj Sareen more than 10 years ago at pilot school, said the money was in a trust fund that Jade can access when she is 21.

Image copyright Annie Driscoll
Image caption Maj Taj Sareen left behind 16-month-old daughter Jade

"I've spoken with her mother and she is incredibly grateful for the love and support shown by Taj's friends.

"Jade is so lucky that she'll get to know her father through everyone and their thoughts."

Capt Driscoll said she had passed the picture along to his family. "I know it's hard to see but they are thankful to have it," she added.

Image copyright Annie Driscoll
Image caption The money from the online memorial is being held in a trust fund for Jade

The photo is one of a set taken by Mr Varley, who said he has only made a few visits to the base to take pictures.

The plumber and part-time photographer said Maj Sareen was the only pilot to wave at him.

Image copyright Annie Driscoll
Image caption Capt Annie Driscoll's memorial fund has raised nearly £50,000

Maj Sareen was called a "hero" by the farmer who owns the field where he crashed, after he avoided hitting him and his son.

His plane is reported to have encountered issues with refuelling before taking off from RAF Lakenheath, but the cause of the crash will not be known until an investigation by the Marine Corps finishes.

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