Three are confirmed dead amidst the rubble of brick and twisted steel from the wrecked plane. The fourth person is missing, and feared dead.
The awful plane crash happened yesterday in the University City suburb of San Diego, after a young pilot flying an F/A-18D Hornet from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln ran into trouble with his plane and could not find a suitable place to land in time. He failed to make it to a nearby deserted canyon to put the plane down.
Instead, it slammed into a Cather Avenue home in the subdivision just west of Miramar. The pilot ejected safely moments before the crash and landed in a tree between the clump of University City homes and Interstate 805.
According to reports in the Los Angeles Times, residents of the neighborhood had grown accustomed to seeing warplanes in the sky, as marine pilots conducted their aerial exercises from nearby aircraft carriers.
This time, residents say, it was different.
"It was mushing through the air," University City resident John Kreischer said, speaking to a reporter. "It was chugging along with what seemed like one engine. Then I heard a roar of engine and all of a sudden, whoop, dead silence.
"This guy could have turned it around and put it in the ocean. He was never going to make it to Miramar."
According to reports, the fighter jet began to experience trouble literally seconds after lifting off from the deck of the aircraft carrier. With a potential malfunction in one of the plane's engines, the pilot is reported to have radioed the air controller at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The latter ordered an emergency landing.
Reports indicate that the plane was crossing overland at Torrey Pines en route to Miramar when the situation suddenly worsened, including the potential flame-out of the second engine. Eyewitnesses indicate the plane lost altitude and began to wobble.
According to various accounts the plane nosed downward, picked up speed and clipped the top of a jacaranda tree before slamming into the Cather Avenue home occupied by the two women, and two children.
A total of three houses and four vehicles were destroyed by the downed plane and the accompanying fire as jet fuel spilled, migrated and burned. A total of 100 firefighters were called to battle the blaze and attempted to mitigate the destruction. Twenty homes were evacuated, and nieghborhood schools were in lockdown.
The pilot, reported to be in his 20s, had spoken with a resident of the subdivision after he was seen wandering in a daze shortly after the ejection. He reportedly indicated that he had attempted to steer the doomed plane into a brushy area to avoid homes, but never made it. He was apparently in a position to watch as his plane crashed into the house, and was hoping that no one had been killed.
The crash happened around the lunch hour. Residents described the sound, and the fury of the crash as horrifying. Although the plane was part of a routine training exercise and carried no bombs or weapons, it was reported that military bomb specialists were seen combing the area for a second ejection seat, which carries an explosive device.
Reports say parts of the plane landed on the roof of one home, and debris was spotted over a two-mile radius.
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The maintenance records of the downed jet fighter will be no doubt picked apart with a fine-toothed comb, as will the remains of the crashed plane. However, regardless of the reasons for the horrific accident, the fact remains that at least three people were sitting at home, probably eating their lunch, when through no fault of their own a jet fighter crashed into them, and took their lives.
With three confirmed dead and a fourth missing, not to mention the destruction of a wide area, it can be assumed that the military will be facing lawsuits over this one.