VIRGINIA

Virginia Beach crash: Navy jet crashes into apartment

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The plane went down in area near Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach. (Photo: @kandidrops/Twitter)

Besides the seven people that suffered non-life threatening injuries when a Navy F-18 jet, based at a Virginia Beach-area Naval base, crashed into an apartment complex on Friday afternoon, officials say no fatalities have been reported.

The crash occurred just after 12 p.m. in the 900 block of S. Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach, The Virginian-Pilot reports. The plane went down into an apartment complex just north of Interstate-264.

The student pilot and his instructor ejected moments before their jet crashed in a fireball in an apartment complex courtyard. The pilots and five on the ground were hurt, but all but one aviator were out of the hospital hours later. 

Crews had carefully checked the apartments, and all residents had been accounted for early Saturday, fire department Capt. Tim Riley said Saturday.

No deaths were reported, but one pilot remains in the hospital Saturday morning for more observation.

"We're not actively searching for anybody," Riley said.

That could change if, for instance, authorities did not know about a guest that had been staying in an apartment, Riley said.

Riley says he attributes the fact that there were no deaths to good training and "a bit of divine intervention."

PHOTOS: The scene from the site of the crash

Dr. Thomas Thames of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital told WAVY-TV that six people were brought to the hospital, including the two pilots. Two people were treated for smoke inhalation, one fainted at the scene and the other person was a police officer hurt at the scene, he said.

Earlier, Bruce Nedelka, Virginia Beach EMS division chief, said there were no reports of fatalities, although several people were being treated for smoke inhalation. He said that an even bigger fire was averted because, as witnesses have said, the plane was spotted dumping fuel before the crash.

"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."

A Navy statement says that both pilots on board the F/A-18 from Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-106 were able to safely eject before the crash. The Navy says the plane crashed just after takeoff.

Residents of the apartment complex tell WVEC-TV that the resident of one of apartments in the crash zone has been accounted for.

The plane went down in the Mayfair Mews apartment complex in Virginia beach, authorities tell The Virginian-Pilot.

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."

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said in a statement that the state is taking all possible steps to provide immediate resources and assistance to people impacted by the crash

“Our fervent prayer is that no one was injured or killed in this accident,” he stated.

As authorities closed roads in the neighborhood, traffic backed up on side streets and on nearby Interstate 264, with slow-moving columns of vehicles bringing drivers to a virtual standstill early Friday afternoon.

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.

VFA-106 serves as the East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, the Navy says. It's mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps replacement pilots and Weapons Systems Officers.

The investigation is now being turned over to the Navy, Riley said.

This is a developing story. This story will be updated. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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