As military officials begin the investigation into what cause a military jet to crash into a rural neighborhood east of San Diego, questions surface about why the jet’s pilot was unable to reach a municipal airport less than 3 miles from the crash site.
The Third Marine Aircraft Wing AV-8B Harrier from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma crashed in a ball of fire around 4:20 p.m. Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of six homes.
Marine officials were on the scene of the crash Thursday picking up debris. Two homes were destroyed and one was heavily damaged in the neighborhood of tract homes surrounded by open fields and farms and located just three miles off Highway 8 in the rural community of Imperial Valley, Calif.
The pilot ejected safely and landed on the paved street near where the aircraft landed at Cross Road & Fonzie Avenue. He has since been released from the hospital and was said to be “doing well” according to Jose Negrete, spokesperson for MCAS Miramar Third MAW.
Officials with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar are working with Navy officials to determine what went wrong as the pilot was on a training flight and traveling to Naval Air Facility El Centro. There was no ordinance onboard at the time of the crash, officials said.
The Imperial County Airport landing strip is located less than 3 miles west of the crash site.
Negrete told NBC 7 the pilot followed protocol adding that there were too many variables for speculation into what may have caused the crash.
Marines have begun surveying the damage and say they have already submitted paperwork to begin the process of reimbursing the homeowners of the three homes considered “uninhabitable” after the fiery crash.
No one in the neighborhood was hurt.
Marine officials say they offered to put the affected families at local hotels but some opted to stay with family.
Residents of three homes were allowed to return around 1 a.m.
Members of the community who have been directly affected, can contact the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Staff Judge Advocate at (928) 269-3484 or (928) 269-3433 for assistance.
NBC 7 Coverage:
- WATCH: Witness Describes Fiery Jet Crash into Homes
- EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Jet Pilot Helped by Residents
- WATCH: Raw Footage of Crash Scene
- WATCH: Official Gives Military Jet Crash Update
- PHOTOS: Military Jet Destroys 3 Homes in Imperial Valley