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Military Police Seal Off Site of Stealth Fighter Crash

September 16, 1997|From Associated Press

MIDDLE RIVER, Md. — Citing national security, military police kept nine families from returning to their homes Monday, seized photographers' film and cordoned off the site of a stealth fighter crash as they searched for pieces of an aircraft whose very existence was once a state secret.

The clampdown in this quiet waterfront neighborhood began almost immediately after the F-117A jet went down during an air show Sunday, crashing into a house and causing six minor injuries on the ground.

"There was military everywhere. This road was full, the sky was loaded. I tell you, it was something," said Paul Canatella, standing in his driveway less than 100 yards from the mangled canopy of the cockpit, which was watched by two armed military guards.

"I've never seen anything like it," Canatella said. "You name it, they were here."

Three blocks of the Baltimore suburb were quickly evacuated and military troops moved in to scour the area for pieces of the $45-million black, "bat-winged" plane.

"It is a secret aircraft; obviously, we want to protect it the best way we can," said Capt. Drew Sullins, a spokesman for the Maryland National Guard.

Film was confiscated from members of the media, including Associated Press photographer Roberto Borea, who had chartered a boat to take him to the neighborhood.

"As soon as we stepped on shore, the military was there and that was it," Borea said. "Had I chosen not to surrender my equipment, I would have been taken into custody."

Sullins said Monday the film and equipment would be returned and the seizure should never have taken place. He also allowed pool photographers on the scene for a few minutes under tight military supervision.


Amateur video of Sunday's crash showed a piece of the aircraft, apparently from the tail or a wing, flying off before the wedge-shaped jet went down in a slow spin as the pilot ejected safely.

Retired bomber pilot Norman Mack said he called the military to ask them to retrieve the first two pieces he saw fall off the plane; they landed in shallow water behind his house.

Mack said several boats showed up and officials called his daughter later asking permission to retrieve a smaller piece of debris from her boat.

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