Video capturing the moment a Navy jet crashed into the Mayfair Mews complex in Virginia Beach and exploded in flames has been posted to YouTube.
In the confusion following the incident, as fire spread though the complex, a woman can be heard shouting: "Everybody out. Let's go, everybody out."
A man can also be heard, saying: “This apartment complex right here, this one is already ruined."
NY Daily News reports three buildings were destroyed and two were badly damaged in the crash. There were no reports of fatalities, but six people were injured.
The Guardian, however, reports seven people were injured and six buildings damaged. According to The Guardian, all residents of the apartment complex have been accounted for and those injured have been discharged from hospital. People in the apartment complex have been treated for smoke inhalation. But many residents have been left homeless. Reuters reports the homeless residents will meet with officials from the Red Cross and the Navy to discuss options for housing.
Reuters reports that even though rescue crews have not yet issued an "all-clear" and are still searching the layers of debris for possible passers-by lying beneath the rubble, they already have a "95 or 96 certain that no one is there."
AP reports the mayor of Virginia Beach said that the fact that nobody died in the crash is a "Good Friday miracle."
According toAP, experts who analyzed the incident attributed the absence of fatalities to the fact that the F/A-18-D jet's fuel was dumped before the crash. NY Daily News reports Bruce Nedelka, Virginia Beach EMS division chief, reported that witnesses said they saw the plane dumping fuel before it crashed. According to AP, the dumped fuel was found on cars and homes in the neighborhood. Nedelka said: “By doing so (dumping fuel), he mitigated what could have been an absolute massive, massive fireball and fire. With all of that jet fuel dumped, it was much less than what it could have been.”
The Navy reported neighbors saved the lives of the pilots by pulling them away from the flames after they had safely ejected. There were no deaths in the apartments because the plane crashed into the apartment complex's empty courtyard, and some of the residents were not at home at the time of the incident.
AP reports that Daniel O. Rose, former Navy jet pilot, said: "At the end of the day, I think it was a lot of fortuity. You look at this as a one-off and you still got to scratch your head."
One of the witnesses was 14-year-old Taylor Saladyga, who was at home alone. She suddenly heard a blast coming from about a 100 yards from her home. She said: "I was terrified. I thought it was terrorists at first."
Another witness, Travis Kesler, a special education teacher at a nearby school said it looked like a movie. He said: "There are so many apartment complexes through here, there are so many people that live there. People are walking up and down the street all the time, riding bikes. It's crazy that nobody passed away."
The Guardian reports a Pentagon official said the US navy F/A-18 jet fighter suffered "a catastrophic mechanical malfunction" shortly after take off on a training flight.
The airmen were from the Naval Air Station Oceana. To guard against risk of crashes over civilian areas, the Navy maps out areas where crashes could occur and residential growth is limited in such areas. The Mayfair Mews complex into which the plane crashed was one of such areas where residential growth is limited.
The crash happened close to the Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world.