3 missing after jet hits US apartments

2012-04-07 12:00

Washington - Firefighters combed through the debris of a Virginia apartment complex on Saturday after a US Navy F-18 fighter jet crashed into it, triggering a massive inferno but injuring only nine people.

Three people were unaccounted for, Virginia Beach Fire Department Captain Tim Riley told reporters. All but six of the most damaged two-storey apartments had been searched with no fatalities reported, he said.

"What I'm praying for, what I'm thinking about now, is that we don't find any more victims," said Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms.

Part of the jet's wreckage lay on the grass behind some buildings after emergency teams doused the area with foam to tamp down the blaze.

Authorities were still scouring the charred remains of about 40 apartment units after the massive blaze ignited by the crash blew off the roofs of buildings and swept through top floors.

'Catastrophic mechanical malfunction'

The two crew members ejected safely from the jet which hit a populated area in the eastern coastal tourist resort of Virginia Beach, officials said.

US Navy Captain Mark Weisgerber blamed a "catastrophic mechanical malfunction" for the crash. Governor Bob McDonnell told CNN officials were hoping to confirm a "Good Friday miracle", with no loss of life.

The specifics of the mishap were still unknown, Weisgerber said, but added that it resulted in the "forced ejection" of the crew - a local student pilot in the front seat and an experienced instructor in the back.

The city's mayor William Sessoms told CNN that nine people had been injured, including the pilots.

Sentara Healthcare said all but one of the seven people taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries had been released. Only one of the pilots remained at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.

"The crew is doing well. They suffered some minor injuries and the latest report is that they're up and about and both coherent and doing well," Weisgerber told reporters.

McDonnell hailed the pilots, saying their last-minute ejection and the quick response from emergency workers on the ground had likely "saved a lot of lives."

Witnesses said the plane came down suddenly and that the spilling of jet fuel may have exacerbated the flames.


"The buildings were starting to collapse," Zack Zapatero told CNN.

"I did not see anyone running out and I was told that there's a bunch of senior citizens that live in those buildings which worries me a lot.

"It was just unbelievable. Law enforcement was really quick to get on the scene. But the amount of jet fuel that you could just smell on the ground, it didn't seem right," he said.

Another witness, Jon Swain, described how the plane smashed into the apartment block.

"There were flames coming out of its engine at the back, which I just thought was afterburn or whatever... but the plane got lower and lower. I saw one pilot eject," he told MSNBC.

"It hit it dead centre. And yeah, it's pretty traumatic. There were a few people running from the building."

Another witness, Joanna Highet, also said the plane was very low and had disappeared out of her line of sight behind some trees.

"Initially we heard nothing, and then when the smoke started after about 15, 20, 30 seconds we heard an explosion," she told CNN.

"We drove back and saw lots of black smoke and the apartment complex on fire from both ends."

The F-18 jet was assigned to Naval Air Station Oceana. The crash took place in an area known as Hampton Roads that is home to many US military facilities, including the world's largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk.

Oceana, which is a vast complex with more than 10km of runways, is manned by 14 600 military personnel and home to 19 fighter squadrons.

It will shut down for the remainder of the weekend and will resume flight operations on Monday, Naval Air Force Atlantic announced.

The Navy said in a statement that it was "continuing to co-ordinate with local authorities, and the cause of the accident is under investigation".

  • goyougoodthing - 2012-04-07 12:36

    There was wreckage? I thought planes disintegrated when they crashed into buildings, or are those only ones being piloted by terrorists with indestructible passports?

      Fred - 2012-04-07 13:04


      goyougoodthing - 2012-04-07 13:13

      Here's the thread, Fred. 9/11 - two planes hit 2 buildings and disintegrate. The only thing that was found was the unscathed passport of a 'terrorist' Unbelievable that it survived a fire which melted metal, somehow got shot out of whatever it was in and landed in the street. All this after 2 pilots who were taking pilot training lessons, as found in their hotel, managed to guide 2 747's under their mandatory speed, into 2 buildings at about 100ft in the air perfectly. Unbelievable. And now this jet, which travels much faster and is smaller, hits the ground and there is wreckage.

      Sam - 2012-04-07 17:11

      I love the way conspiracy theorists warp information to substantiate their claims: news article mentions jet wreckage, therefore proves 9/11 was an inside job. No knowledge of the speed it was traveling, the fuel load, the structure of the buildings, the trajectory and position of impact. No experience or understanding of the engineering of the aircraft or the building, just a snippet from a news article is enough to piece together the clues that a totally unrelated incident was orchestrated by the illuminati/new world order/bilderberg group who somehow managed to arrange the whole thing perfectly but then forgot to make the passport look authentic. Must have been an intern,

      goyougoodthing - 2012-04-07 17:17

      A bit of sarcasm lost on the multitude I see.

      Fred - 2012-04-07 19:15

      Total nonsense

      Fred - 2012-04-07 19:19

      Like your ideas that the Rothschilds of all people, who hardly feature in modern financial circles let alone world leadership circles, are the cause of all evil in the world, and central banks are arms of private banks not governments.

  • nschutt - 2012-04-07 14:38

    First off, the 9/11 airliners were not 747s, they were 767s and 757s. Secondly, military aircraft are designed for much greater airframe stress and damage tolerance. Flying what is basically a hollow aluminium tube into a steel reinforced concrete skyscraper will result in total airframe destruction, whereas an F/A-18 being designed for military operations and high-speed supersonic flight will survive a flight into wood and brick structures. Do the research first before you start commenting.

  • Ms.Spearmint - 2012-04-11 04:51

    I like how they briefly skim over the fact that 3 people are still missing and unaccounted for and then go into intimate detail how they had no fatalities and had fully searched all 40 apartment's wreckage. Two people on craigslist said they witnessed an excess of 12-13 body bags coming out of the wreckage. I'm sorry Sam, but you do not understand the levels of speed that a JET can reach that are way above any commercial airliner due to the same principal that a car with little weight will go faster than a car with more weight. Unless you're one of those princesses that gets driven in a private jet anywhere, I think you would see that there is a significant difference. If you aren't then please stay in school, you need it.

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