Friday, July 1, 2011 | 12:20 p.m.
Nellis Air Force Base will host a private memorial service next week for Capt. Eric Ziegler, the pilot who died earlier this week after his F-16C Fighting Falcon jet crashed near Caliente.
"Eric was a man of character and faith who deeply loved his family as well as flying," Ziegler's family said in a statement Friday released through Nellis. "His sense of humor, spontaneity, faith, zest for life, love of family and country are the hallmarks of his personality. He was a true son of the United States."
Ziegler, 30, an operational test and evaluation instructor pilot with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis, logged more than 1,200 flight hours in Korea, Germany and the United States. A native of West Fargo, N.D., Ziegler was a 1999 graduate of West Fargo High School. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2003 and earned a master’s degree in 2010.
He received the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters and an Aerial Achievement Medal. He also had recently been selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Nellis officials said.
The U.S. Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon he was flying crashed west of Caliente in a combat training exercise on Tuesday.
On Thursday, U.S. Air Force officials said they found conclusive evidence that he did not survive the crash. The Air Force has opened an investigation into the accident.