VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY-AP) - Two Navy pilots ejected from a fighter jet Friday, sending the unmanned plane careening into a Virginia Beach apartment complex and tearing the roof off at least one building that was engulfed in flames, officials said.
Seven people, including both pilots, were injured, officials said. Two of the injured refused treatment, and all are expected to survive. The Navy said both aviators on board the jet ejected before it crashed around noon and were being taken to hospitals for observation.
Bruce Nedelka, the Virginia Beach EMS division chief, said that witnesses saw fuel being dumped from the jet before it went down, and that fuel was found on buildings and vehicles in the area.
"By doing so, he mitigated what could have been an absolute massive, massive fireball and fire," Nedelka said. "With all of that jet fuel dumped, it was much less than what it could have been.
Live video from 22News' sister station WAVY-TV showed dozens of police cars, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles filling the densely populated neighborhood where the plane crashed. Yellow fire hoses snaked through side streets as fire crews poured water on the charred rooftops of brick apartment houses. Another fire crew doused the plane's wreckage with streams of white foam to try and contain any potential spill of jet fuel.
Four buildings had massive damage, showing gaping holes with fire-blackened edges, while a few yards away, rows of homes were largely untouched.
The crash happened in the Hampton Roads area, which has a large concentration of military bases, including Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world. Naval Air Station Oceana, where the F/A-18D that crashed was assigned, is located in Virginia Beach.
Edna Lukens, an apartment employee across the street from the crash, said she saw three apartment buildings on fire.
"We heard this loud noise and we looked out the window and there was smoke all in the sky. Then the flames started going up in the sky, and then the apartment building just started burning and the police was called and everybody came out," Lukens said.
Lukens said a senior citizens' community was across the street, and people were trying to help them evacuate.
The Daily Press of Portsmouth reported that Sean Pepe of Norfolk and Kenny Carver of Hampton saw the jet as they were driving on Interstate 264. They said it appeared to be "floating" in the air before it went down behind trees.
"It was odd, but we didn't think anything of it," Pepe told the newspaper. "We thought it was doing maneuvers. We were watching the plane but didn't see the impact. We saw it go down and there was a `boom.' Then there was black smoke everywhere."
Bruce Nedelka, Virginia Beach EMS division chief, said there were no reports of fatalities, although several people were being treated for smoke inhalation.
Commander Rosi with the Navy told WAVY.com the plane was an F-18 with Strike Fighter Squadron 106. Rosi added two aircrew safely ejected from the plane that was based in Oceana.
The Hampton Roads area of Virginia has a large concentration of military bases, including Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world. Naval Air Station Oceana is located in Virginia Beach.
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