This is going to be the last I write about this for a while.
Incredibly sad, four members of a family gone.
"Two witnesses who spoke to the pilot said the aircraft lost one engine over the ocean, and the other failed over the neighborhood. The jet crashed less than a quarter-mile from University City High School and two miles west of the Miramar runway."
Somewhere the decision was made to return the crippled jet by flying over a residential neighborhood and high school.
Notes on the behavior of some humans: a neighbor said there were "souvenir" hunters (talking about eBay) that they chased out of the backyard...horrible. That, and the tv/camera people in our backyard all afternoon, added to make the day even more surreal.
Also: Cheers to the emergency services (fire and police). They were there very quickly, going into a deadly and toxic scene.
The quote above and story below are from the local paper, The San Diego Tribune.
3 killed as fighter jet crashes in San Diego
Pilot ejects seconds before impact; child missing, presumed dead
By Steve Liewer,
and Debbi Baker
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
A military jet crashed around noon Monday in a University City neighborhood.
A mother, her young child and the child's grandmother died at 4416 Cather Ave. when the disabled F/A-18D Hornet crashed into the house in a fiery explosion, authorities said.
A second child was missing and presumed dead before the search was suspended at 6 p.m. because of darkness, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Authorities plan to resume the search this morning.
The county medical examiner has not released the victims' names. The children's father, a businessman who was at work, could not be reached for comment.
Next door at 4371 Huggins St., Robert Johnson sat in the living room with his daughter, Heather Certain, and her 2-year-old son, Nicholas, when they heard the explosion outside. Then a huge fireball filled the picture window looking out at the front yard.
“The house shook like an earthquake,” said Johnson, 56, who was about to leave for his job as a volunteer guide at the USS Midway Museum. “I saw the flames right there in front of my house.”
All three fled out the back door.
The jet pilot had ejected safely and was in good condition at San Diego Naval Medical Center as of 9 p.m., said a hospital spokeswoman.
Also last night, the senior pastor and some congregants at the victims'church, the Korean United Methodist Church of San Diego in Clairemont, told the TV station KNSD 7/39 that a 36-year-old mother was in the home with her two sons – a 2-month-old and 1-year-old. The mother worked as a nurse at a hospital.
The woman's mother also was in the house.
The family recently moved into the house because they needed more space after the baby's birth, the church members said, and the grandmother flew over from Korea shortly afterward.
“Just like any other immigrants, they tried so hard to take a root in this new community,” the Rev. Daniel Shin, senior pastor of the church, told the TV station.
The crash destroyed two houses and damaged three others near the intersection of Cather and Huggins. Inky smoke billowed from the ruined houses for most of the afternoon. Administrators at nearby University City High School kept students indoors until their regular dismissal time.
A pilot from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station flew the two-seat aircraft, said base spokesman Maj. Jay Delarosa.
The unidentified student pilot was en route from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, which has been operating in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego for several days while aviators practice day and night carrier-landing drills.
Two witnesses who spoke to the pilot said the aircraft lost one engine over the ocean, and the other failed over the neighborhood. The jet crashed less than a quarter-mile from University City High School and two miles west of the Miramar runway.
A firefighter on Huggins Street inspected the wreckage from yesterday's crash of a military jet. The Marine Corps is expected to lead an investigation into the crash.
A man witnesses described as the pilot of the crashed fighter jet sat on the lawn of a house in University City after he ejected safely yesterday.
“(The pilot) was talking to air traffic control,” said Col. Christopher O'Connor, the commanding officer at Miramar. “He said he had a problem.”
Dennis Connor, 50, said he was on a hill in the neighborhood when he saw the plane approaching at a 45-degree angle.
He said the jet hit the pavement on Cather Avenue near Huggins Street, just short of Interstate 805 and open space in Rose Canyon. The impact sent debris flying between two houses and set three on fire.
Connor said the plane, which had clipped treetops, was just seconds from the ground when the pilot ejected. It was smashed into pieces, with a turbine from an engine being the only part that Connor could distinguish.
“Everything was just mangled aluminum,” he said.
Steve Diamond, a retired naval aviator from Tierrasanta, found the pilot in a tree behind a house just east of University City High School. He helped the man, whom he described as a lieutenant in his 20s, down from the tree.
Diamond said the pilot told him that after he lost power in the first engine, a decision was made to get the jet to Miramar on the remaining engine.
“He was making motions with his hand, like he was trying to throttle up, and he said there was no power,” said Matthew Gorsuch, a former helicopter door gunner in the Navy who lives near the crash site. “He said he was trying to find a clearing, but he ran out of time.”
Through it all, Gorsuch said, the pilot had just one concern. “The only thing he cared about was where his plane had landed. That was the only thing he asked about. That was all he had on his mind.”
In October, the Navy and Marine Corps temporarily grounded 636 older Hornets after a routine inspection revealed cracks in several of them.
But the aircraft, a workhorse of the Navy and Marine Corps fleet, has generally performed well in more than two decades of service, said John Pike at the defense-oriented GlobalSecurity.org.
“It is not a widow-maker,” Pike said.
The Marine Corps is expected to lead an investigation into yesterday's crash. A naval official said flight exercises from the Abraham Lincoln won't be affected by the incident.
F/A-18s routinely fly out of Miramar, a once-rural base now hemmed in by development.
Nora Bhes, who lives a block from the crash site, said she has been concerned about possible crashes because of low-flying military jets.
“They come so close that you can't even talk,” she said, breathing through a scarf because of the acrid smoke yesterday afternoon.
Others in the area marveled over their narrow escapes.
Postal carrier Bill Dusting had delivered mail – a Korean-language newspaper – to the victims' home a few minutes before the crash. He heard a “pop-pop” sound from the sky. That was the sound of the pilot ejecting.
“I looked up and saw the plane,” said Dusting, an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service. “It was unreal, except this was real.”
Dusting ran to his right and was still running and staring over his shoulder when the jet slammed into the house at 4416 Cather Ave.
After Johnson, his daughter and his grandson scrambled out the back door with the family dog close behind, they made their way to Huggins Street.
They saw flames in front of their house and Johnson's Oldsmobile ablaze in the driveway. The jet's fuselage was in the street surrounded by smoke and flames, and a parachute was descending above the crash scene.
Johnson came back for his mother-in-law, who lived across the street, and saw her trying to put out the flames with a garden hose. He escorted her to safety.
The victims spoke little English, Johnson said. They worked in their yard frequently and always smiled. It haunted Johnson to think of the close call that took their lives – and spared his.
“We all live at the edge of mortality,” he said. “It could have been us just as well.”
Staff writers Keith Darcé, Lisa Deaderick, Sharon Heilbrunn, Robert Krier, Angelica Martinez, Rick Rogers, Peter Rowe and librarian Merrie Monteagudo contributed to this report.