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Navy Jet Crash Claims 2nd Victim : Aviation: A pregnant mother dies of burns the day after the fighter hit an apartment complex. And a man's body is earlier found in the rubble.

November 11, 1989|From Associated Press

SMYRNA, Ga. — A pregnant mother died Friday of burns inflicted when a fighter jet crashed into a suburban apartment complex. Earlier in the day, searchers found a man's body in the wreckage of his incinerated apartment.

Navy investigators, meanwhile, continued hunting through the debris for clues to Thursday evening's crash, but said they did not know what caused the accident.

Margie Padovani, 28, died of her injuries Friday night, said John Hester, night administrator at Grady Memorial Hospital, where Padovani had been transferred with burns over half of her body.

The woman's 5-year-old daughter remained in critical but stable condition at the hospital, Hester said. The pilot, who ejected just before the jet crashed in a fireball, also remained in critical condition.

"The worst part was just the sounds--that little girl screaming," said resident Tamara Owens.

Resident Bill Barcus, who still had a reddened face and a singed arm Friday from facing the intense heat in an attempt to reach the burning woman, said: "I got to within 10 feet of the woman but it was too hot and I didn't have any shoes on. All I could hear were her screams, but I had to back off. I went back to get my shoes, but by then somebody had gotten her."

The young man's body was found about 3 p.m. Friday in the apartment that absorbed the heaviest damage from the crash, Cobb County Medical Examiner Joseph Burton said.

The man was identified only as a white male in his 20s. Burton said there was no indication that anyone else was in the apartment, where he said a man lived alone.

Authorities did not immediately identify the resident or the body. Only one person was known to be missing prior to discovery of the body, but the search continued. Four missing people were located earlier.

"Obviously nobody (else) turned up missing, and that leads us to believe there is no one else in there," said Kathie Barton, Smyrna's director of community relations.

The body was found in the kitchen of the last apartment in a building along the easternmost edge of the complex. Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said he was told the apartment was incinerated by 4,000-degree temperatures.

About 30 people were left homeless by the fire, and about 50 others who lived in undamaged portions of the Pine Lake Village Apartment complex had not been allowed to return to their homes Friday afternoon. Most spent Thursday night at a nearby motel, which offered free lodging.

Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Robert M. Conlyn Jr. of Marietta, Ga., the only person aboard the unarmed A-7E Corsair II attack plane, remained unconscious after brain surgery, said Kennestone Hospital spokeswoman Laurel Fredlake.

Troy Kraemer, Padovani's fiance, said she was pregnant.

A woman hurt while fleeing her apartment was treated for cracked ribs, and a military rescue worker broke an ankle, officials said.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze about two hours after the crash.

Fire Chief Larry Williams said the search of the apartment of the man believed missing was "a military-type operation." Civilian searchers were kept away through much of the day while Navy investigators looked for clues, and Marine Reserve guards helped seal off the crash site.

Police officer Frank Durrance said the Navy jet struck the edge of a building before crashing into a car and coming to rest by a chain link fence about 30 yards away. "You could tell it was a car, but you can't tell that it was a plane," Durrance said.

Barton said 12 apartments were destroyed and 20 damaged in two buildings. Three of the 32 units in those buildings were vacant, said Jim Humphrey, maintenance supervisor for the complex.

The jet crashed 2 1/2 miles short of the runway at Naval Air Station Atlanta, located at Dobbins Air Force Base, 15 miles northwest of Atlanta. The pilot was to land there while on a navigational training mission, the Navy said.

Conlyn, 37, has flown Navy aircraft for 15 years on active duty and in the Reserves. He joined Delta Air Lines in 1980 and is a co-pilot for the Atlanta-based carrier.

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