Local pilot dies in crash
July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:02 PM
"Daren Jewell was doing what he loved most when his jet crashed off the coast of San Diego Friday night.He was flying.Those who remember the 1992 graduate of Oak Harbor High School say that Jewell always dreamed of flying and planned his life around becoming a Navy pilot.It was in his blood. Both his parents had pilot licenses. He grew up on a private landing field near Silverdale. As a young boy he bragged that he would be a Navy pilot someday and he never strayed from that path.The Navy has no clues about why Lt. Jewell's F/A-18C Hornet crashed during routine training missions from the USS Constellation aircraft carrier 95 miles southwest of San Diego.Cmdr. David Koontz at North Island Naval Air Station said Jewell's aircraft crashed about 10 minutes after taking off. The Navy and Coast Guard conducted extensive search and rescue efforts throughout the night but were unable to find Jewell, who is presumed dead.The Navy did find a voice box recorder, Jewell's helmet and a flight bag, according to Mary Wilson, a friend of his family.Jewell did not crash in his own airplane. Several members of his Strike Fighter Squadron 151, nicknamed the Vigilantes, had come down with the flu so Jewell flew two missions that day, Wilson said. In Oak Harbor, the news of the tragedy hit many people hard. Jewell's mother and step-father, Marlene and Davis Brenner, still live in Oak Harbor with Jewell's beloved dog, a German shorthair named Rainy. In his last e-mail message to his mother, Jewell wrote: I finally feel like a real Navy pilot. Tell Rainy I'm coming home. He was planning to visit Oak Harbor early next month.He was the light of my life and I will miss him forever, Marlene Brenner said. She moved her son from Silverdale to Oak Harbor in 1988.Wilson, who knew 26-year-old Jewell since he was in high school, remembers the young man's obsession with airplanes. He built dozens of model planes and talked about flying to a deserted island in an Albatross airplane and hanging out with his dog on the sand. But more than anything, he talked of being a Navy pilot. Retired Navy Capt. Bob Miles, who taught Jewell through the Oak Harbor High School junior ROTC, said that the young man was very clear about his goal of becoming a pilot. The two of them got along very well since Miles was a retired aviator and Jewell loved to hear his stories of flying.He lived and breathed flying, Miles said. He was going to get there no matter what it took.Jewell's high school history teacher, Tom Gerber, also remembers him as a very determined young man who had a great sense of humor and a positive outlook on life.He was an enthusiastic kid with a strong work ethic, he said. He was a go-getter and a neat all-around guy.His work ethic helped him on the hard road leading to the cockpit of a Hornet strike fighter. It's a tough journey, Miles said, that few can accomplish. Jewell went to Emory-Riddle University for his first year out of high school and then went to Washington State University, and was very active in the college ROTC for four years. He graduated and was commissioned into the Navy in 1996.After attending flight school at Pensacola, Fla., the Navy stashed Jewell at the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station for several months until there was a pilot position open. He was with the training squadron VAQ-129 on Whidbey until he was sent to Lemoore Naval Air Station in California. He joined VFA-151 last April. Miles said the people Jewell left behind can take some comfort in knowing that he died while he was flying and loving life.Besides his mother and step-father, Jewell leaves behind his father, David Jewell of Chelan; his half-brother David Scott Jewell of Chico, Calif; and half-sister, Dara Jewell McPherson of Kent, Wash.The family hopes to set up a scholarship fund in his name through the Oak Harbor High School Navy junior ROTC program. Memorials may be sent to NJROTC Unit, Oak Harbor High School, 950 NW Second Street, Oak Harbor, WA 98277.The Navy already held a memorial service aboard the USS Constellation. A second service is scheduled Friday at Naval Air Station Lemoore.There will also be a memorial service at the Navy chapel on Friday, Nov. 10. "