Photos released by the U.S. Navy of the fiery F-18 crash on Friday show a stark contrast between the extensive material damage caused by the aircraft when it went down in a Virginia Beach residential area and the surprising lack of any serious injuries on the ground.
Officials announced on Saturday that all residents of the apartment complex affected by the accident have been accounted for, and that while several individuals were treated at a local hospital after the crash, no serious injuries were sustained.
Witnesses say they saw the two-seat F/A-18D leaking fuel before crashing into the complex around noon on Friday. According to Navy officials, the aircraft likely suffered a “catastrophic mechanical malfunction” shortly after taking off from the nearby Naval Air Station Oceana for a training flight.
The apartment area was engulfed in flames after the F/A-18D crashed belly up, the tail of the aircraft lying intact amidst the complex’s courtyard as the fires blazed.
The two F-18 aircrew members – one student and an instructor – managed to eject safely, with one reportedly found strapped to his ejection seat amidst the fiery scene by local residents who helped him get him to safety.
The accident is the third F-18 crash this year, and follows the February crash of an F-18 in Bahrain and another two days prior during a training mission in Fallon, Nevada.
The aircraft involved in Friday’s accident was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106, which trains replacement Navy and Marine Corps pilots as well as weapon systems officers.