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“First we saw (the jet) circling around, doing its normal routine. Then we heard a ‘Boom!,’ like a very loud car backfiring, and we looked and saw smoke coming off the plane," Ruby Gordy, 38, a neighbor who was sitting outside her building across the street, told the Daily News.
"We saw the pilots try to stabilize the plane for a few seconds, and then the canopy released. They ejected right at the tree line," she recalled. "We saw the ‘chutes, but they just looked like streamers. They didn't even have a chance to really open."
Gordy and her roommate ran to the burning complex to warn residents to flee.
She said the pilot was still strapped to his seat on the ground outside, his parachute tangled on the building.
Her roommate helped move him behind a Dumpster to protect him from flying debris.
"He kept asking if everyone was okay. That was his main concern. We were worried about his legs, but he was more concerned about the people in the building," she said.
Some seven people suffered non-life threatening injuries including smoke inhalation, officials said.
"Everything was red and everything was on fire and then black smoke started to come out and then we heard noises like ‘Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” resident Joan Coleman, 87, told WAVY TV.
Worried the explosions were from live ammunition onboard the wreckage, she ran to the back of the building.
There she saw the pilot on the ground, his face covered with blood.
"One of the guys said to him, 'Are you okay?" and he said, 'I'm not really sure.' He was in shock, but he said, 'I'm sorry for destroying your home,'" she recalled.
She said the pilot "realized he had some kind of a problem, and he was trying to turn back around...so that he wouldn't hit here."
Witnesses reported the release of fuel from the crippled jet before it went down, leading some to believe the pilots were trying to mitigate damage on the ground.
Weisgerber said the fuel release appeared to be part of the "malfunction," which happened shortly after takeoff.
He added there were no indications a bird was sucked into an engine — the cause of the Miracle on the Hudson landing from a few years ago.
No reported deaths but three elderly residents of apartment block are unaccounted for
Two pilots - a student and an instructor - ejected from aircraft before impact
Both pilots among those taken to hospital; one was heard apologising for crashing into residential buildings
Five civilians - including one police officer - also hospitalised but released by evening
The type of jet involved is described by the Navy as an F/A-18D Hornet – a “multi-role attack and fighter aircraft” built at a unit cost of $29 million. It has a wing span of 40 feet and is capable of achieving speeds greater than Mach 1.7.
In December 2008, the same model of jet crashed in California, killing several members of one family and destroying two homes.
Originally posted by snowspirit
The witness said he plays tennis in the area, and has been noticing this riskier behaviour over the last few months.edit on 6-4-2012 by snowspirit because: (no reason given)
A U.S. Navy admiral said Saturday that the fiery crash of a fighter jet into apartment buildings in the military community of Virginia Beach matches his definition of a miracle. No one was killed and everyone was accounted for one day after the accident. "I don't speak for anybody's religious beliefs, but the mayor and I both agreed that if you want to define a miracle, what happened here yesterday meets that definition for me," Adm. John Harvey, the four-star head of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, told reporters. He said the Navy is investigating the crash, but noted it will take weeks to determine exactly what happened. "We will not rush to judgment. We will get everything down. We will examine it carefully," he said. "We'll fix whatever went wrong."