- Last Updated: 4:32 PM, April 6, 2012
- Posted: 12:34 PM, April 6, 2012
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A Navy fighter jet crashed into a suburban Virginia apartment block Friday, moments after the two pilots were able to safely eject.
The two-seater F/A-18D slammed into the low-rise Mayfair Mews in Virginia Beach at around noon local time, setting it ablaze.
TV footage of the crash showed crater-sized holes in five buildings, towering flames and a thick, black plume of smoke billowing from the wreckage.
It was not immediately clear whether any residents were inside the 20 apartments hit by the jet, but fire department officials say nobody is currently missing and there are no known deaths.
Locals said at least one building in the block housed senior citizens. Virginia's WTKR-TV reported that five people on the ground were taken to the hospital but their conditions were not known.
"It's going to take a while to do a detailed search of these buildings," Tim Riley, spokesman for the Virginia Beach Fire Department, said.
The military, meanwhile, confirmed the F/A-18D's two-man crew managed to safely eject moments before the impact. Both were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, according to another Virginia station, WAVY-TV.
Firefighters are currently battling a blaze at the crash site but it appears to be mostly under control.
Pat Kavanaugh, who identified himself as a retired rescuer, told WTKR how one of the pilots parachuted into his backyard while still strapped into his seat.
Kavanaugh said the pilot was in shock and had facial lacerations, but did not have life-threatening injuries.
"He apologized very much for landing into our complex," Kavanaugh said.
An eyewitness told WAVY he heard a "pop, pop" sound coming from the jet, known as the Super Hornet, before its engine went silent. The plane then "went straight up" before crashing to the ground.
According to the military, Super Hornet engines produce a combined 44,000 pounds of thrust.
The F/A-18D was used during Operation Desert Storm from 1990 to 1991 on bombing missions in Iraq where it set "records daily in reliability, survivability and ton-miles of ordnance delivered," according to the military.
The jet that went down Friday was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106, whose mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps FA-18 replacement pilots and weapon systems officers to support fleet commitments.
Emergency crews from the military are coordinating the rescue, assisted by the Virginia State Police and Virginia Beach police.
Oceana Naval Air Station is less than five miles from the apartment block, which is also close to a busy road.