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Apollo 8 Astronaut Pilot of Small Plane that Crashed in San Juan Islands

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders is identified as the pilot of a small plane that crashed Friday in the San Juan Islands near Vancouver Island.

The news of 90 year old’s death has been confirmed by the Heritage Flight Museum in Burlington, Washington, in a post on its Facebook Page.

“Heritage Flight Museum is deeply saddened to confirm that one of our Founders, Bill Anders, was killed in an aircraft accident. The Museum will be closed until further notice. Please respect our need to grieve the passing of a great father and great pilot.”

Anders and his wife were residents of the San Juan Islands.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson posted a tribute to Anders on social media.

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The County Sheriff’s Office on San Juan Island began receiving calls at 11:40am about a small plane crash between Orcas and Jones Island.

US Coast Guard aircraft and surface vessels responded and began a search of the area.

Dramatic video of the crash was captured from shore and shows the plane making a steep dive and unable to pull up in time to avoid the water.

The US Coast Guard says the pilot’s body was recovered by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife dive team.

According to his biography on the Heritage Flight Museum’s website, Major General William Anders was selected in 1963 by NASA from a pool of thousands of applicants for the third group of astronauts.

He was one of the three crew members of Apollo 8, which launched on December 21, 1968.

It was the first manned flight of the Saturn V rocket, the first time that humans had left Earth’s gravity, the first humans to travel to the moon and fall under the gravitational pull of a celestial body other than Earth.

The Apollo 8 crew were the first humans to see the Earth rise over the horizon of another celestial body and Bill Anders photograph titled Earth Rise was named one of the “100 Photographs that Changed the World” by Life Magazine.

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