Pilot Missing: F-16 Fighter Pilot Has Valley Ties

Valley relatives of a missing pilot are not giving up hope after his F16 may have crashed off the coast of Italy.

A massive search and rescue operation is underway to find missing pilot, Captain Lucas Gruenther.

The pilot's fighting falcon went missing Monday night, during a night training mission.

Italian Coast Guard officials say poor visibility had hampered the search but the fog is now lifting, and that news is now lifting the spirits of Gruenther's relatives here in the valley.

Nanette Mathias says, "We are asking for everyone please to keep up their prayers. We still believe he is going to be found."

Nanette Mathias is Lucas' cousin.

Nanette says Lucas is a man the entire family is proud of, he loves his country and always wanted to fly jets.

Nanette says, "He's just an amazing young man, always respectful. He is just a risk taker always flying his F16 and rock climbing. He loves very big adventures."

Nanette hopes it is just a matter of time before she will hear that Lucas has been found safe and sound.

Until then she says, she and others will continue to pray.

The missing pilots' mother and wife are currently headed to Italy.

Relatives says his wife Casey, who happened to be Lucas' high school sweetheart is expecting their first child in the next 2 to 3 weeks.