No casualties in military aircraft crash in Imperial Valley

IMPERIAL, Calif. - A military aircraft crashed in a residential area in the Imperial Valley, about 90 miles east of San Diego, Wednesday afternoon.

According to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the aircraft was a Third Marine Aircraft Wing AV-8B Harrier that was stationed out of Yuma. The plane went down around 4:20 p.m. in Imperial, a city of about 15,000 near the U.S.-Mexico border.

Officials said the pilot ejected and landed safely and although the plane hit houses, there were no casualties on the ground.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene, though. Two homes were on fire and at first it was unclear if anyone was inside.

"I was pretty close to it," said witness Shaun Penniman, who was out running with his dog when the aircraft went down. "I heard like a pop and a whistle. And right when I looked up is when I saw the pilot eject."

"It felt like a bomb was thrown in the backyard of the house," said Adriana Ramos, 45, whose home is less than a block from the crash scene. "The whole house moved."
 
Ramos fled with her 4-year-old granddaughter and 10-year-old daughter, who both cried at the sight outside.
 
Another witness, Jose Santos, was driving nearby and saw the plane flying "really low." Then "it just fell down," he said.
 
Santos sped toward the crash site. On the way, he saw the pilot who had parachuted to the ground.
 
"He didn't look like he was injured. He was rolling from side to side," and a police officer and others were helping him, Santos said.

Cpl. Melissa Lee, a spokeswoman for MCAS Miramar, had no details about what might have caused the crash. Official at MCAS Yuma referred all questions to Miramar.

This was the second crash in a month of a Harrier jet from the Yuma air base. On May 9, a pilot was able to eject safely before his jet crashed in a remote desert area near the Gila River Indian Community, south of Phoenix. No one was injured.

Excerpts from 911 Calls

  • "It's going to be a plane that crashed. We have fd en route."
  • "I'm with the subject, the pilot."
  • "I'm helping evacuate several residences."
  • "Confirming you said the pilot eject."
  • "Per chief... he wants to make sure all the residents got out."
  • "Let's move all non-emergency personnel out of the area."

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