Unless they had absolutely no control of the plane at all, weren't they obligated to stay with it and make sure that it DIDN'T hit something like it did?
Many years ago at the Niagara Falls AFB there was a flight show, either Blue Angels or Thunderbirds, I don't recall which one. There was a malfunction in one of the planes and the pilot chose to stay with the plane and land it in a controlled crash away from the crowd instead of ejecting and having the possibility of it landing IN the crowd.
The decision cost him his life, but he gave it to likely spare others.
Is this not what they're trained or expected to do?
No, it’s a personal decision that each pilot has to make. They’re not obligated to stay with a jet that’s going down. Most pilots eject below the flight manual minimum altitude in an effort to regain control. In fact, a lot of them eject out of the ejection seat performance envelope.
If the plane can be at least partially controlled and pointed in a safe direction, a pilot will do that. They’re trained for that. But a pilot is not doing a service to anybody by riding it in. If they can’t get it under control by the time they reach minimum ejection altitude, that last few thousand feet isn’t going to make a difference, especially in a situation like today’s. The jet was low and slow with an engine out (and who knows what other problems?). It was pretty well written in stone where that jet was going to hit. In that flight regime, the engines and control surfaces just don’t have enough authority to affect the flight path much.
I find it pretty insulting to suggest that the aircrew wasn’t doing their job and going against their training by not riding the jet into the fireball. They did everything they could before they punched out.