Officials: 3 dead after military jet crash

10:16, 09 December 2008
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 The victims...

A military jet crashed into a residential neighborhood in San Diego, California, on Monday as it tried to land at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, killing three people in a home, authorities said, according to CNN.

 The victims -- two adults and an infant, according to the San Diego medical examiner`s office -- were in one of two houses destroyed by the crash and ensuing fire, officials said.

One other person believed to be in that house is missing.

The pilot of the F/A-18 Hornet ejected safely and was taken to a hospital, the Marine Corps said in a news release. The pilot, whose name was not released, was the only occupant of the two-seat aircraft, the Marine Corps said.

The search for any other victims was suspended because of darkness and would resume Tuesday morning, the medical examiner`s office said.

At a news conference in the University City community where the crash occurred, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said it was believed that four people -- "possibly a grandmother, a mother and two children" -- were in the destroyed house where firefighters found three bodies.

 Identities of the victims were not released.

 The other house hit by the plane apparently was unoccupied at the time, he said.

 The jet crashed into an area of about 20 homes, Sanders said, but only those two houses burned.

 The Marine Corps said the jet was returning to the Miramar field after performing landing training on a Navy aircraft carrier, and the pilot reported having trouble.

The exact nature of the trouble was not known, the Marine Corps said, and an investigation was launched into the crash with the military having jurisdiction over the crash site. Smoke rises from fiery crash

Aerial video broadcast by CNN affiliate KGTV shortly after the crash showed thick gray smoke billowing from a residential area near Interstate 805. Smoke continued to rise in clouds from the site nearly an hour after the crash.

Firefighters aimed jets of water from high-pressure hoses at the smoldering rubble.

San Diego resident Ian Lerner, who contributed photos of the crash scene to CNN`s, said he and a friend were on lunch break and headed to a shopping center about a half-mile from the neighborhood when they saw the jet flying low.

"It was, oh gosh, maybe a couple of hundred feet off the ground. And it was quiet -- I think the engine was off," said Lerner, who runs a telecommunications company in San Diego.

 "Then all of a sudden we saw the canopy of the jet explode and go up, and then we saw the pilot blast out of the plane and the parachute open," Lerner said.

Both the jet and the pilot disappeared from view behind trees, he said.

 iReporter Chris Morrow of San Diego said she went to the crash site and saw "two houses that looked liked they`d blown up."

"I didn`t see much of the jet plane at all," Morrow said.

Morrow said the area around the crash site was cordoned off and "people in silver hazmat suits" were on the scene.

"They told us if we crossed the line [into the restricted area] we`d have to be treated because there were hazardous chemicals," Morrow said.

One resident interviewed by CNN affiliate KFMB said he saw a fighter jet at a very low altitude, and "it just spiraled, right out of `Top Gun.` "

The movie "Top Gun" was based on the Navy fighter pilot training program at the Miramar facility.

The resident said he saw a flier from the aircraft on the ground after parachuting from the plane. He said the pilot was dazed but able to move on his own.

Bank worker Scott Bloom told KGTV he was on his way to visit clients when he saw someone eject from the plane. He said the plane was silent in the moments before it went down.

"I thought I was dreaming," Bloom told KGTV. "It was so surreal."

The pilot was in communication with military air traffic controllers before the jet crashed, and the crash site is about two miles (three kilometers) from the airfield, the Federal Aviation Administration said.


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