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Navy Fighter Jet Crashes Into Virginia Beach Apartment Complex

The burning fuselage of an F/A-18 Hornet lies smoldering after crashing into a residential building in Virginia Beach, Va. on Friday.
The burning fuselage of an F/A-18 Hornet lies smoldering after crashing into a residential building in Virginia Beach, Va. on Friday.

A Navy fighter jet crashed into an apartment complex in Virginia Beach, this afternoon. Television images showed thick, black smoke billowing near a row of apartment buildings.

WAVY-TV, the NBC affiliate in the area, reports that Virginia Beach Police said the military aircraft went down at around 12:30 p.m. ET.

The Virginian Pilot reports the Navy confirmed the crash and said the two crew members are believed to have ejected safely.

There are still no reports of casualties because of the crash.

This story is developing. We'll update this post with the latest.

Update at 5:27 p.m. ET. 'Catastrophic Failure:'

Authorities just gave a news conference in Virginia Beach. Among the highlights:

-- Navy Capt. Mark Weisgerber said the pilot was a student but he was accompanied by an instructor who was sitting behind him.

-- Weisgerber described the accident as a "catastrophic" mechanical failure. He said he did not know how many times the student had flown the plane.

-- Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessions said so far they have been very lucky, because no casualties have been reported. The fire chief, however, said there were still people they were trying to track down.

-- Weisgerber said it's not clear whether the fuel dump was intentional or part of the the malfunction.

Update at 3:21 p.m. ET. Six Injured:

Reuters reports that while no deaths have been reported, six people have been taken to a hospital. Reuters adds:

"Both crew members ejected. One of them was in good condition and the other was in fair condition, said Emma Inman, a spokeswoman for the Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.

"Among other people hurt was a firefighter. Injuries included smoke inhalation, she said."

Update at 3:05 p.m. ET. Dumping Fuel:

Quoting Bruce Nedelka, the division chief for the Virginia Beach EMS, the AP reports that the fighter jet seemed to dump its fuel before it crashed. Nedelka said fuel was found covering nearby buildings and cars.

"By doing so, he mitigated what could have been an absolute massive, massive fireball and fire," Nedelka told the AP. "With all of that jet fuel dumped, it was much less than what it could have been."

Update at 2:26 p.m. ET. Three Transported To A Hospital:

So far, no casualties have been reported in this crash. Bruce Nedelka, the division chief for the Virginia Beach EMS, tells CNN that three people — one of them the pilot — have been taken to a local hospital. Nedelka said he had no indication that the injuries suffered were life threatening.

Update at 2:22 p.m. ET. Aerial Footage:

From Reuters, here's some aerial footage of the wreckage:

Update at 2:07 p.m. ET. The Walls Shook:

The Army Times spoke to former Navy SEAL Patrick McAleenan, who was about a block away when the plane crashed. He said his walls shook when the impact happened. The Times reports:

"He said the pilots ejected at the last possible second in an apparent effort to make sure that the plane would not crash into a nearby school.

"McAleenan said that the aviators appeared to be safe, considering the circumstances.

"'One of them, literally, his parachute hung on a balcony. The people on the ground were dragging him to safety,' he said."

The paper reports that there have been at least two F-18 accidents this year.

Update at 1:59 p.m. ET. Training Squadron:

The Navy has issued a statement on the crash. For the record, the jet in question is an F/A-18D assigned to the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106. The jet crashed shortly after takeoff.

The Navy confirms that "both aircrew safely ejected from the aircraft." They add:

"VFA-106 is based at Naval Air Station Oceana, and serves as the East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron. Their mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 Replacement Pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (WSOs) to support fleet commitments."

Update at 1:52 p.m. ET. Video From The Scene:

Russia Today has put up this video of the aftermath of the crash:

Update at 1:43 p.m. ET. Five Buildings Badly Damaged:

Battalion Chief Tim Riley tells CNN that five buildings have been "badly damaged."

Also, in a statement, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said he is in contact with the Virginia Beach mayor and that he's providing "provide immediate resources and assistance"

Update at 1:29 p.m. ET. At Least Three Buildings On Fire:

Aerial footage from WAVE, shows at least three buildings that sustained major damage. One of the buildings seems to be missing walls and two others have lost their roofs. The images show at least two large firetrucks dousing water on the charred remains.

Update at 1:22 p.m. ET. Navy Investigating Cause:

NPR's Tom Bowman tells us the Navy is investigating the cause of the crash. The jet — a F-18D Hornet — was out of the Naval Air Station, Oceana, near Norfolk, Va.

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET. Jet Crashed At Apartment Complex:

CNN is reporting that the plane crashed into an apartment complex. The Virginian Pilot confirms that, saying:

"EMS Division Chief Bruce Nedelka said that the plane crashed at the Mayfair Apartment complex. Two buildings were on fire and crews were searching for casualties on the ground."

Update at 1:10 p.m. ET. More On The Jet:

WAVY has a bit more on the jet from from Cmdr. Phil Rosi, who said the jet was from the Strike Fighter Squadron 106. One of the pilots is in the hospital, Rosi said.

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