U.S. Navy jet crashes in Virginia Beach

April 6, 2012 at 8:55 PM
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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., April 6 (UPI) -- U.S. Navy officials said mechanical failure caused an F-18 fighter jet to crash into a Virginia Beach, Va., apartment complex Friday shortly after takeoff.

Virginia Beach Fire and Rescue spokesman Battalion Chief Tim Riley said five buildings at the Mayfair Mews apartment complex were heavily damaged, WVEC-TV, Hampton Roads, Va., reported.

Six people, including the pilots, were treated at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, WVEC reported. One of the pilots was treated and released and the other was listed in stable condition Friday.

At a news conference late Friday, Capt. Mark Weisgerber of the Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic said the two occupants of the F-18 were a trainee and an experienced pilot. Weisgerber said the dumping of the plane's fuel was not intentional, WVEC reported.

The Virginia Department of Health urged local residents to stay away from the site and close their windows because of air quality concerns.

A resident of the complex where the plane crashed told the TV station "the whole back yard was in flames and then things started to explode."

"I mean -- things just kept exploding and the black smoke just kept coming," Joanie Coleman said. "I walked around the back and there were people there and they had the pilot. He fell onto someone's patio. He was in shock and he apologized to the person who was trying to help him. He said 'I'm sorry I landed in your back yard.'"

The crash occurred at approximately 12:05 p.m., shortly after the jet took off from Naval Air Station Oceana.

The fighter jet was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106.

"My thoughts and prayers are with our citizens and families who have been impacted by the tragic crash today in Virginia Beach by an aircraft from NAS Oceana," Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., commander of U.S. Fleet Forces, said in a statement. "I deeply regret that some in our community have lost their homes, and I, like many, pray for the well-being of all."

Harvey said he was grateful to residents and first responders "for their immediate and heroic response to take care of our aircrew after they ejected and all at the scene of the mishap."

The Navy was working with the city to coordinate assistance.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said the state will respond immediately with assistance for those affected by the crash, WVEC reported.

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