Taj Sareen, a 34-year-old U.S. Marine Corps pilot, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif., was killed Oct. 22 when his fighter jet crashed in England while he was returning home from a deployment in the Persian Gulf, according to news reports.
Sareen leaves behind his parents, his sister and a toddler daughter and was scheduled to return home to celebrate the birthdays of his father Kulbhushan Sareen, retired managing partner of New York Life’s Greater San Francisco office, as also his little daughter Jade, according to India West newspaper that reported the story.
The paper quoted a spokesman for USMC Station Miramar as saying t hat he could not comment on the manner of Sareen’s death before 24 hours as per military protocol.
The Indian-American had served with the Marine Corps for more than 11 years. Stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Sareen and served with Marine Attack Squadron 232. His F/A-18C fighter jet crashed in a field in Redmere village, Cambridgeshire County, England, at about 10:30 A.M. U.K. time, shortly after it took off from Royal Air Force station Lakenheath, the paper added.
A public service announcement by the RAF Lakenheath noted that Sareen was flying from Bahrain to Miramar with five other aircraft; his jet crashed six miles northwest of the airfield. The remaining five aircraft were safely diverted to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, according to RAF Lakenheath reports, quoted by India West. The crash is under investigation by the U.K. Coast Guard and the U.S. Air Force.
According to other media reports, the plane avoided nearby houses before it crashed. San Diego reporter Preston Phillips, a friend of Sareen’s, was quoted by India West as telling ABC News: “That’s Taj in a heartbeat. I mean, he would do that to save people.”
Sareen, who grew up in Castro Valley and Hillsborough, and attended the University of San Francisco, joined the Marine Corps in 2004. Rennu Dhillon, founder of Genius Kids, told the paper that Sareen was pretty well-known in the Bay Area.
“He had such a magnetic presence, everyone instantly wanted to know who this handsome fellow was. He was always laughing and had such an infectious smile,” Dhillion was quoted as saying. Dhillion said that Sareen had a passion for cars and planes and he always wanted to fly.
Following his death, Kulbhushan Sareen’s Facebook page were flooded with messages of sorrow and grief with some describing his son as the ‘brave Marine Corp pilot’ and noting that his service to the country and “the love that he brought to so many lives” will never be forgotten.