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Fighter jet crashes in suburban San Diego

Three dead on the ground, pilot ejects safely

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An F/A-18D on a training mission yesterday crashed into a suburb of San Diego, killing three people on the ground, Reuters reports. One person is still missing, although the pilot ejected safely.

The aircraft was flying from a carrier in the Pacific to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar when it apparently suffered a failure of both engines. It "left a deep gash in the pavement it struck before ploughing into two homes", in the process damaging a further five houses.

The authorities evacuated 20 homes in the "well-manicured neighbourhood", close to the border with Mexico. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders told reporters that in one of the destroyed properties "there might have been a grandmother, and a mother and two children".

The pilot came down in a school field and, despite getting "caught up in a tree", was described as "alert and walking". He was taken to a military hospital "as a precaution".

Jason Widmer, a builder working nearby who rushed to offer the pilot assistance descibed him as "a little shaken up". Widmer said: "The first thing he said to me, even before he said, 'I'm OK,' he said, 'I hope I didn't kill anybody'."

Witnesses told local radio the pilot "might have been intending to crash the plane in a nearby canyon in order to avoid hitting a school", Reuters notes. The agency has photos of the crash site here. ®

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