SMYRNA, Ga. — A military attack jet crashed into an apartment complex in this northern Atlanta suburb Thursday evening, engulfing several buildings in flames and injuring at least seven people, authorities said.
There was no immediate report of fatalities, but Capt. George Brogdon of the Smyrna Police Department said several of the injuries appeared to be serious. Among the injured was the pilot, who was in critical condition.
"Among the seven there's a good possibility of loss of life. I don't know how many," Brogdon said.
At least three buildings in the complex were destroyed, he said. He was not aware of anyone trapped inside the burning buildings.
The A-7 Corsair attack jet crashed into Pine Village Apartments off Windy Hill Road, a heavily traveled thoroughfare lined with scores of apartment complexes and businesses.
"I saw it when it exploded in the air," an unidentified eyewitness told Atlanta-based WSB-TV. "Everything (on the ground) just went up in flames . . . people crying, people flying out of houses."
An eyewitness, Terry Scott, said he saw the pilot's parachute deploy as he was just about 100 feet above the ground. The pilot then plunged into a street, where he was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The injured were taken to Kennestone Hospital at Windy Hill.
At the Pentagon, Navy officials said the A-7 was from the Naval Air Station, located at Dobbins Air Force Base about 15 miles north of Atlanta.
A Navy Department spokesman, Cmdr. Mark Baker, said he presumed the plane was on a routine training mission.
"I sincerely doubt that it would have any weapons aboard for a training mission," he told reporters.
The A-7, which entered service in 1965, is a single-seat attack aircraft used for a variety of bombing missions on land and at sea.
The current version, the A-7E or Corsair II, has undergone a number of modifications. The A-7E has a 20-millimeter gun and can carry payloads of up to 15,000 pounds of bombs and missiles.
Navy records indicate that A-7E Corsair IIs were part of the two-carrier battle group that conducted a joint strike on selected Libyan terrorist-related targets in 1986. Together with carrier-based F/A-18s, A-7s used anti-radiation missiles to neutralize air defenses.