VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Navy officials said a “catastrophic mechanical malfunction” caused a fighter jet to crash into several apartments in Virginia Beach on Friday.
The crash involving an F/A-18D Hornet happened around noon at an apartment complex near Oceana. No fatalities have been reported. Both pilots in the jet ejected before the crash.
WTKR reported seven people, including both people in the jet, were admitted into the hospital. Six had been been released as of 5 p.m. The person remaining in the hospital is part of the two-person jet crew.
Of the seven total patients, two had smoke inhalation, one blacked out at the scene, and a Virginia Beach police officer was hurt when he fell at the scene. An EMT volunteer was the latest person taken to the hospital with knee pain.
The sixth and seventh patients were the Navy air crew. One was listed in fair condition, while other was listed in good condition.
Tim Riley with the Virginia Beach Fire Department said the jet caused a third-alarm fire. WTVR reported the crash damaged five apartment buildings and about 20 apartment units. Three of the five damaged buildings have suffered collapses, WTVR reported.
Riley told the Associated Press late Friday that three residents remained unaccounted for.
“We don’t know if we have working cell numbers, if they’ve traveled,” Riley said. “We don’t know if people are staying with other people.”
Crews advised residents near the crash site to close their windows and avoid the area due to air quality concerns caused by the jet fuel.
Navy officials told WTKR the jet had just taken off for a training exercise when the unspecified malfunction occurred. A student was in the front pilot’s seat, and a pilot with more experience was in the back seat, Navy officials said.
The plane had dumped loads of fuel before crashing, though it wasn’t clear if that was because of a malfunction or an intentional maneuver by the pilots, Capt. Mark Weisgerber with U.S. Fleet Forces Command told the AP.
Pat Kavanaugh, a retired rescue squad member, said he ran outside to see what he could do to help and ended up finding one of the pilots.
“I heard three loud booms, so I up out from the couch and went to my back door,” said Kavanaugh, who lives in the Mayfair Mews apartments. “When I looked out, I saw a pilot on the ground with a parachute hanging from the building.”
He said the pilot had facial lacerations.
“He apologized very much for hitting our complex and I said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine,’” said Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh said he and some neighbors carried the pilot, who was in shock and still strapped to what appeared to be his seat, to safety.
The group picked him up and carried him to another part of the complex away from the fire.
They managed to drag him to the other side of the apartment complex to wait for first responders to take him to the hospital.