F-18 Fighter Jet Crashes Into Homes

December 13, 2008

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, an FAA spokesman told CNN.

The pilot ejected before the jet, an F/A-18, went down two miles from the airfield about 11:55 a.m. PT, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Information about injuries wasn’t immediately available, Gregor said. CNN affiliate KGTV reported that the pilot was transported to a local hospital in “mild status.”

Aerial video broadcast by KGTV shortly after the crash showed thick gray smoke billowing from what appeared to be a heavily populated residential area of several houses near Interstate 805.

Two homes were destroyed, and officials don’t know whether anyone was inside the structures during the crash.

The crash happened as the jet was returning to the Miramar field after performing landing training on a Navy aircraft carrier, the Marine Corps said in a news release. The cause of the crash is under investigation, it said.

Authorities cordoned off the area. Residents told reporters they had been informed by police that chemicals were in the air and they should stay away.

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 principal of a high school about three blocks from the crash site said students had just finished lunch when staffers heard “two large pops or two large booms.” The school and its students were not directly affected by the crash, but the school was put into lock-down mode for students’ safety, Principal Mike Price said.

The pilot was in communication with military air traffic controllers before the jet crashed, the FAA said.

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