April 6th, 2012
05:35 PM ET

Navy jet crashes into apartments in Virginia

[Updated at 6:05 p.m. ET] A Navy fighter jet experienced a "catastrophic mechanical malfunction" during takeoff Friday over the military community of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and rained a stench of jet fuel shortly before crashing into apartment buildings, according to residents and Navy officials.

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The jet carried a student pilot in the front seat and an experienced instructor behind him, and the dumping of jet fuel was "one of the indications that there was a mechanical malfunction," Navy Capt. Mark Weisgerber told reporters.

The malfunction is being investigated, he said.

The two pilots, a police officer and three other people were taken to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, Dr. Thomas Thames, the hospital's vice president of medical affairs, told CNN affiliate WAVY.

None of the injuries was considered life-threatening, Thames said.

Virginia Beach Mayor William Sessoms told CNN that nine people suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash and explosion ruptured the easy mood of spring break and the unfolding Easter and Passover holiday weekend, and the two-seater F/A-18 jet landed eerily upright in flames in a courtyard surrounded by five apartment buildings suddenly set afire, according to residents and authorities.

The two crew members ejected safely, the Navy said. Resident Pat Kavanaugh told CNN affiliate WTKR that he and others found one of them still strapped to his seat with a lacerated face. Kavanaugh said he was on his couch when he heard a loud boom and was startled to see a parachute hanging from the building.

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soundoff (259 Responses)
  1. Kris

    I live in Virginia Beach. I used to live in Birdneck Village, 50 feet from Mayfair Mews, where the plane crashed. I own a condo a couple blocks over. They have blocked the interstate (264) at Laskin Road. They've got it contained, so no fire has spread.. People are being tended to. If you'd like more up-to-date information you can visit WAVY.com.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lance Yourdan

    I would just like to point out that allott of pilots will dump there fuel before landing in case of the aircraft catching fire during landings. I live northwest of Detroit City Airport and I have had a gell like sticking substance on my windshield numerous times. Possibly from this action. This could also explain why the F/A-18 Hornet looked like it was leaking fuel. And the pilot could possible have lost aleron control at th last moment preventing him/her from diverting to te open ocean. Don't judge these men and women before the facts are known. You in turn do this great country a very dishonorable thing by patranizing our great soldiers and airmen.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solitaire

      What is "patranizing"?

      April 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Looks so far like they were pure professionals.

      Dumping fuel isn't for their own benefit. They risked their lives by staying in the apparently damaged plane longer than necessary to dump fuel.

      I hope the pilots and everybody on the ground are ok.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Hey Lance – no one wants your pocket wannabe aviation "wisdom.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. deathangel777

    I hope everyon is ok. My god be with them

    April 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. DianeL

    Another new's site says that "officials" are worried their are injuries and/or casualties on the ground. I pray this isn't so.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Julie Manthey

    local authorities are now saying the fire is under control

    April 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      It is contained.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Claudette

    I have lived here for over 30 years and this has NEVER happened. My continued prayers.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JPSeagull

    Sad news. Glad the pilots are okay, but they have to live with any facts of loss of life (I hope none). I am sure the Navy will settle the damage and help re-home the homeless. This stuff isn't funny and those who chose to live near the airbases accept the risks. We are all in this together....but I do wonder if the pilots could not have steered the plan away from homes....will never know.... let's hope no one was killed or hurt...to include the pets.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. kris

    Mayfair Mews Apt complex in the 1000 block of Fleming Circle.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Guest

    Relax those making jokes and think this is funny are the ones on 9/11 that were crying in the corner and hiding in their homes because they have no honor or pride to do anything.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maida85

      So True!

      April 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ted

    I wonder if the Chinese were testing a crash through the bugs they implanted in the parts of the f18 we manufactured in China.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. missalex01

    what i don't get is dumping the fuel, so i happen to be walking out of a public building into the masses of smokers and fuel gets dumped I am dead but it saved the apartment buildings??

    April 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solitaire

      I think dumping the fuel probably avoided a very much larger explosion.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • USMC

      The fuel typically evaporates before it hits the ground.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Any fuel dumped prior to the crash won't be burning in the resulting fire.

      Standard practice for any pilot with the time and steady thinking to do it before an upcoming crash.

      No doubt if they were able they would have steered the plane to a remote area first.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • parentof4

      The main purpose of dumping fuel prior to an unavoidable crash is to help prevent additional fires on the ground at the crash site. Had this jet crashed into the apartment complex with a full load of fuel, the fire could be much more catastrophic. And those who are "worried" about a jet dumping fuel over you while you are smoking or cooking on a grill, don't worry. A cigarette or charcoal fire does not burn hot enough to ignite JP-8 (high quality, ultra-refined diesel fuel – yes, diesel is basically what jet fuel is).

      April 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Honda

    Tom and Mac,
    You are two fine examples of why this is the one and only time I will ever make a comment on these things. If you have nothing decent or intelligent to say, DON'T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoodleHat

      Go fist yourself.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ryan

    Why not ditch it in the ocean instead of an apartment building? Downtown VA beach is 8 miles from the ocean.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      VA Beach doesn't have a downtown. And i'm sure the reason it happened here over these apartments is because they were about to land the plane at the Air Station which is right down the street. And yeah, i DO live at the oceanfront, in case you are wondering.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jen

    The sentence :George Pilkington, an eye witness to the crash, said he was the plane flying low, with its nose up and tail down, ejecting fuel – which struck him as unusual.

    Looks like there is a grammar issue in the sentence, I will give you a hint the plane's name isn't George Pilkington. 🙂

    April 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bob

    First of all, I'm thankful that the pilots are safe and continue to pray that those on the ground are all safe. HLN has this Zack Zapatero doing an interview on right now. Where did this guy come from? Talking about pilot's maneuvers next to an airport getting more and more dangerous. Is he a military pilot? Is he even a civilian pilot? What's his area of expertise. Does he know what kind of maneuvers it takes to fly an F-18 Hornet? I bet not. He's just another example of some people looking for an excuse to bash our miliary. I'm proud that they are defending us. Yes, this is a tragedy, but he is way out of line.

    April 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
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