Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas on May 22, 2022.

Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas on May 22, 2022. (Rose L. Thayer/Stars and Stripes)

ATLANTA — An Air Force student pilot was killed last week when he was struck by a train in Del Rio, Texas, near Laughlin Air Force Base, where he was stationed, military and law enforcement officials said Monday.

Second Lt. James Chitika was found dead off base April 16 near railroad tracks in Del Rio, officials at Laughlin said in a news release. Chitika was struck by a train late that night, according to the Val Verde Sheriff’s Office.

Chitika, 24, was a 2022 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and was learning to fly jets at Laughlin with the 47th Flying Training Wing, according to the service. He was a native of Atlanta and is survived by his mother, father and sister, according to the Air Force.

“Our deepest condolences are with the Chitika family, classmates and friends of James during this difficult time,” Col. Kevin Davidson, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said in a prepared statement. “As we work through this tragedy, let’s focus on uplifting one another.”

The Val Verde Sheriff’s Office was continuing the investigation into Chitika’s death, Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez told Atlanta’s 11Alive television news on Saturday.

Martinez said Chitika had been seen walking along the train tracks before his death. He also said deputies found Chitika’s truck about 3 miles from where he died, according to the news station.

A Val Verde Sheriff’s Office official said Monday that the probe was ongoing, and no one was immediately available to discuss the incident.

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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