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F-4 crashes; no fatalities

BRIDGETON, Mo. -- An F-4 Phantom jet taking off from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport veered off a runway Sunday, crashed and burst into flames, but the two crewmen escaped with minor injuries, officials said.

The pilot was able to leave the wreck on his own and his weapons officer ejected, said Capt. Darrell Shoults, spokesman for the 131st Tactical Fighter Wing of the Missouri Air National Guard.

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The fire was extinguished quickly after the crash at 11:16 a.m. and the plane never left the ground, officials said.

The pilot, Capt. Carl Arizpe, 31, of St. Louis, suffered minor burns in the wreck, said Ken MacNevin, a spokesman for the Missouri National Guard.

Lt. Kevin Greeley, 28, a weapons systems officer who recently transferred from the Illinois Air National Guard, fractured his left leg when he ejected from the rear seat of the aircraft, MacNevin said.

The crew members were hospitalized in good condition at DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton.

'They were on takeoff,' Shoults said. 'During the takeoff roll, the aircraft veered off the runway and there was a fire.'

Shoults said military investigators would search the plane and interview the crew to determine the cause of the crash.

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One commercial runway at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was out of service Sunday due to emergency vehicles blocking the runway but officials said normal flight operations resumed within an hour of the crash.

Airport officials said no major delays were reported in commercial air traffic at Lambert. The airport is about 15 miles northwest of St. Louis.

Arizpe crawled out of the plane while Greeley ejected from the rear of the craft, Shoults said. The plane was on a training mission, he said.

Shoults said that in the last six months Greeley moved to St. Louis from Springfield, Ill., where he had been in the Illinois Air National Guard.

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