Richard Stephen Pugh – Lieutenant, United States Navy

Navy ends search for 2 Oceana-based F-14 aviators

Courtesy of The Virginian-Pilot
August 11, 2001

VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA – The Navy stopped searching Friday for two Virginia Beach-based aviators who disappeared along with their F-14 Tomcat in the Indian Ocean.

The crew was identified as Lieutenant Commander Robert Wayne Sides, the pilot, who had celebrated his 39th birthday Tuesday; and Lieutenant Richard Stephen Pugh, 30, the radar intercept officer.

Sides, of Scottsdale, Arizona, a graduate of the Top Gun fighter pilot school and the Air Command and Staff College with five operational tours of Asia behind him, had been in the Navy for 20 years. He was scheduled to be married when his squadron returned in September and was planning to retire from the Navy and begin civilian career, according to his sister, Stephanie Burwell of Virginia Beach.

“Our family is proud of him and his accomplishments, among those his training at Top Gun,” she said. “His humor, his generosity, his warmth will be missed. He will be missed.

“He was the best there was. We just hope that in his 10 seconds of fame he will appear as the great guy he was. Our family grieves, too, for the loss of his friend and RIO.”

Pugh resided in Virginia Beach with his wife. He had been in the Navy for six years. He earned an Army commission in 1991, then attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1995.

They were flying their fighter from the deck of the carrier Constellation, which is assigned to the Pacific Fleet, when they failed to return from a night-time training mission Thursday in the Bay of Bengal, the Navy said.

The carrier earlier had been in the Persian Gulf on a routine deployment and was headed back to its home port in San Diego.

An extensive search turned up no wreckage or other debris and no sign of the men. No communications were heard by the ship, nor were any distress messages heard, officials said.

Ships from the Constellation battle group, as well as aircraft from Carrier Air Wing Two conducted search efforts throughout the day and night, officials said.

Both men were assigned to Fighter Squadron Two at Oceana Naval Air Station. They left for deployment March 15 and were scheduled to return in September.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 11/17/1980 – 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/07/1962
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 08/28/2001
  • BURIED AT: SECTION MC  (Memorial Section C) SITE 23-O


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 06/01/1995 – 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 11/22/1970
  • DATE OF DEATH: 08/09/2001
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 10/30/2001
  • BURIED AT: SECTION MC  (Memorial Section C) SITE 22-O

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