Military plane crashes on ranch near Lake Okeechobee
FORT PIERCE, Fla. (AP) – A single-seat Navy jet fighter on a training mission crashed nose-first Tuesday on a ranch northeast of Lake Okeechobee, killing the pilot, authorities said.
The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office said witnesses saw a military aircraft go down about 10:30 a.m. on the V Bar 2 Ranch a few miles east of the Okeechobee County line. No one ejected from the plane, witnesses said.
Sheriff Ken Mascara said a sheriff’s office helicopter conducted a search but called it off after a half hour because officials didn’t see any survivors or parachutes.
The pilot’s identity was being withheld pending notification of his family members.
The F/A-18C Hornet took off from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va. It was on a routine training mission to Key West with 10 other Hornets from the air station when it crashed, the Navy said.
The remaining aircraft arrived safely at Key West Naval Air Station, Oceana spokesman Mike Maus said.
Investigators have not determined the cause of the crash.
County Fire District spokesman Capt. Tom Whitley said witnesses reported seeing the aircraft ”coming nose down from the sky.”
Large pieces of wreckage lay in a crater 15 feet deep and 20 feet wide, Whitley said. Smaller pieces of the plane were scattered in a half-mile circle around the wreck.
The F/A-18C Hornet is the standard Navy and Marine Corps fighter. It also comes in a two-seat version, was used extensively in strikes against Iraq during the Gulf War.
On the Net:
Oceana Naval Air Station: http://www.nasoceana.navy.mil/
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