Three dead on ground as military jet crashes in California suburb

By | December 8, 2008

A US F/A-18 fighter jet crashed into a residential neighborhood in California on Monday but there were no immediate reports of injuries, aviation and military officials said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said in a statement the pilot of the jet ejected as the plane made its approach to land at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar shortly before midday (2000 GMT).

A Marine Corps spokesman meanwhile confirmed the plane was carrying two crew but their fate was not immediately known. The cause of the crash was also unknown, Captain Carl Redding said.

There were no immediate reports of the pilot’s condition or possible injuries on the ground said, but local television showed plumes of thick white smoke rising from the crash site in the suburb of University City.

The charred remains of a building were also clearly visible.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said the crash destroyed one home and extensively damaged another before a blaze at the scene was extinguished.

One eyewitness told a local television reporter that the plane had spiraled out of control like a scene from 1986 movie “Top Gun,” the hit film about a US Navy fighter pilot played by Tom Cruise.

“It just spiraled right out of ‘Top Gun’. It came flying down. My mother screamed,” the man said, reporting that he had seen the plane’s pilot after he parachuted to earth at a nearby school playing field.

“He just looked like he was dazed like ‘Oh, my God, what happened over civilian air space?’,” he said. – ap

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The San Diego Fire Department described the scene of the crash as “a heavily populated area” near Interstate 805. TV footage showed plumes of white smoke rising from several houses. It is not clear if there are any casualties. The jet crashed as it prepared to land at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and the pilot had ejected, the FAA said.  The crash occurred two miles (3.2km) from the base, it added. Donny James, who was visiting his mother in the area, said the supersonic fighter had been flying at very low altitude. – bbc

Television news footage showed what appeared to be the remnants of a smoldering house and two cars on fire. “We saw two big bangs,” resident Scott Patterson told KNX radio. “The smoke came up. We don’t know what it was.” Neighbor Ben Dishman told MSNBC that the crash shook his house about a block away in the densely populated area and that officials were warning residents to move back. “I knew definitely it was an explosion. … It was pretty strong,” Dishman said. Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said he didn’t know whether anyone was injured. A Miramar spokeswoman said base workers were sent to the crash site. “We are still trying to confirm the aircraft even belongs to us,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Bobbie Bryant. The F-18 is a supersonic jet used widely in the Marine Corps and Navy. – ap

Why would the Marines not know if the F-18 belonged to them? Answer: because it belonged to the Navy.

San Diego firefighters say a U.S. Navy jet crashed into a residential neighborhood Monday, destroying at least one home and possibly two. The F-18 was believed to be flying out of the nearby Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and experienced an engine problem. “The plane was going slow but the engine was running,” witness Gil Johnston told KNSD-TV, San Diego. “Then I heard a pop.”

No, scratch that, it was from the Marines after all.

The aircraft was a two-seat F/A-18D carrying a single pilot from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101, part of the Miramar-based 3rd Marine Air Wing, said Capt. Stephen Paap, a Marine Corps spokesman. The student pilot was en route from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, operating in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego, Paap said. He was taken to a clinic at nearby Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The training squadron includes both Navy and Marine Corps aviators, Paap said. He said he didn’t know which service the pilot represents or how many flight hours he has accumulated.

“I heard a boom boom boom. … I came out and saw my neighbor’s house on fire,” she said, adding that she did not know if anyone was home at the time. Authorities concerned about possible toxic fumes evacuated an area bounded by Huggins, Lipmann and Weller streets. Thick, black smoke could be seen rising from an area north of Governor Drive and west of Interstate 805, according to eyewitnesses. That smoke turned white as the firefighting effort began. – sandiego

And the worst part is this, of course:

Two people are now confirmed dead on the ground. – sandiego

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