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Navy jet crash crews say all are accounted for

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Virginia Beach firefighters say they've accounted for everyone who lived at an apartment complex where a Navy fighter jet crashed.

The student pilot and his Navy instructor ejected moments before the crash, which occurred at 12:05 p.m. Thursday. The jet hit the two-story Mayfair Mews apartment complex, setting about 40 units on fire. The two pilots and five people on the ground were injured, and no deaths were reported. One of the pilots is still hospitalized, but is expected to be OK.

Fire officials said crews are not actively searching for anyone, but that could change if there may have been a guest in an apartment that authorities don't know about.

Since the pilots are OK, the Navy should be able to quickly figure out exactly what happened.

ABC News reports the pilots experienced a fuel leak at take-off from the Oceana Naval Station and immediately shut down one of the two engines. They began dumping fuel to lighten the plane but something went wrong and both ejected before the crash.

The apartment complex is just a few miles away from the Oceana Naval Station. In 2005, the Department of Defense ruled that the base should be moved due to the danger posed by its proximity to residential neighborhoods.

Virginia Beach has taken steps to help with the encroachment issue including buying up land nearby to avoid further residential development.

The same model of fighter jet, an F/A-18D, crashed in December 2008 while returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after a training exercise in a San Diego neighborhood. That crash killed four members of one family and destroyed two homes.

The Marine Corps said the jet suffered a mechanical failure, but a series of bad decisions led the pilot - a student - to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base after his engine failed. A federal judge awarded the family nearly $18 million in restitution.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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