April 6, 2012
A U.S. Navy F-18 fighter crashed into an apartment complex in Virginia Beach, Virginia, sending fireballs into the sky and heavily damaging five buildings after the two crew members ejected from the craft on Friday.
Two people, one of them from the plane, were taken to hospitals for treatment, local officials said on CNN. They said rescue workers were searching the damaged buildings.
Battalion chief Tim Riley of the Virginia Beach Fire Department said five buildings were heavily damaged by fire. "We have not had any reported missing people," Riley said.
Zack Zapatero, who witnessed the crash, told CNN there were "just large fireballs coming up" into the sky from the crash. The tail section of the F-18 landed in the courtyard of the complex of two-story brick buildings.
A volunteer rescuer, Pat Kavanaugh, told CNN he found one of the pilots in the wreckage, still strapped to his ejection seat with a parachute. Kavanaugh and neighbors picked up the seat and carried the pilot away from the flames. Kavanaugh said the pilot told him, "I'm so sorry I crashed into your building."
The plane was part of a training squadron at Naval Air Station Oceana for Navy and Marine aviators in Virginia Beach.
George Pilkington said on CNN the F-18 crew was dumping fuel before the crash. "It was coming in low. Right when I seen it, I knew something was wrong," said Pilkington.
Virginia Beach is on the Atlantic Coast about 200 miles south of Washington, DC.
(Reporting By Charles Abbott)