A US Navy F-18 plane has crashed into residential apartment buildings in Virginia, USA, causing an intense fire that damaged buildings but which remarkably has not led to any fatalities.
The fighter jet, which was based at the nearby Oceana naval air station, is believed to have hit the buildings shortly after take-off. Witnesses said the jet crashed with its nose pointing upwards.
Both crew members managed to eject and escaped without serious injury. However, at least one of them has been taken to hospital along with a number of people on the ground, who are believed to have been injured.
Among other people hurt was a firefighter with injuries including smoke inhalation, she added.
A statement given by the US Navy, which is assisting local authorities, said the F/A-18D Hornet crashed shortly after 12:05pm (EDT). The plane was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 which serves as the Navy’s East Coast fleet replacement squadron. Its role is to train Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 replacement pilots and weapon systems officers to support fleet commitments.
Witness Keith Gutkowski described to CNN what his wife saw: "When (my wife) walked outside of our condo, she heard the jet and just saw it almost fall out of the sky. It was almost at an angle pointing toward us."
He said the ejection seat "hit one of the oak trees and took a few branches off of that and then it slammed into our fence at the condo."
Virginia Beach EMS Division Chief Bruce Nedelka praised the pilot for managing to dump fuel shortly before crashing, preventing a worse accident.
"The pilot in the jet did an absolutely tremendous job," he said. "If that had not been done, the impact and the subsequent fire damage with all that extra fuel would have been intense. What he did was wonderful."
Virginia governor Bob McDonnell issued a statement soon after the crash. he said: "We are taking all possible steps at the state level to provide immediate resources and assistance to those impacted by the crash of an F-18 fighter jet in Virginia Beach.
"In the past half hour I have spoken to Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms several times and informed him that all Commonwealth resources are available to him as the community responds to this breaking situation. We are monitoring events carefully as they unfold and State Police resources are now on the scene. Our fervent prayer is that no one was injured or killed in this accident."
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