The Navy jet that crashed in Virginia on Friday was spewing fuel and its nose was tipping upward before it slammed into a residential neighborhood, a witness said.
George Pilkington, who lives near the crash site, told CNN that it wasn’t unusual to see low-flying aircraft in the Virginia Beach area, which is studded with military installations. The plane that crashed apparently was flying out of the Oceana Naval Air Station. Pilkington said he was driving to a gym when he noticed the F/A 18 Hornet headed the same direction.
This plane, however, was flying unusually low, the tip was pointing up and fuel was coming out, he said. It was clear the plane would crash.
“There’s nowhere he could have touched down in a safe way,” Pilkington told CNN in a telephone interview.
Residents in the area have told local media that the smell of fuel was overwhelming. Whether the fuel was released intentionally or as a result of a leak was unknown. Two crew members ejected from the jet.
Five buildings were heavily damaged and the search for possible victims on the ground continues. Televised images from the scene show what appears to be an apartment complex cleaved down the middle. Still, Pilkington said, the disaster could have been worse.