Pilot Safe After Fighter Jet Crashes in Woods
Published: Friday, January 11, 2002
A New Jersey Air National Guard fighter jet crashed into a wooded area near the Garden State Parkway during training this morning, scattering debris across the highway but causing no injuries.
The pilot, whom the authorities would not identify, was safely blasted out of the single-seat F-16 by his ejection seat about 10:45 a.m. He then parachuted to safety into the pine trees of the Bass River State Forest, where he was picked up about 25 minutes later by a Coast Guard helicopter, officials said.
He was taken to a hospital near Atlantic City, where he was treated for bumps and bruises typically associated with ejecting, officials said.
Some debris from the crash fell on the parkway, about a quarter of a mile to the east, but no vehicles were damaged, officials said.
''The whole house shook,'' said Eileen Mauriello, who lives about a quarter of a mile from where the airplane crashed, and near the bombing range at Warren Grove where the jet was practicing bomb drops.
There is no indication yet what happened to the airplane, said Col. Michael G. Cosby, commander of the Air National Guard's 177th Fighter Wing, which is based at Atlantic City International Airport in Pomona.
At an afternoon news conference, he said a review board would investigate the crash, which occurred near Milepost 55 of the parkway. He said the F-16 pilot, who is 40, had about 2,900 flying hours and also flew for an airline that Colonel Cosby said he could not identify.
Although the colonel said it was too early to say whether the pilot had tried to steer his aircraft away from populated areas before ejecting, one witness said it appeared that way.
''I think the guy should be commended,'' said Willie Miller, who was working at a nearby service station, watching the airplanes, when he saw the parachute blossom. ''He didn't take out any schools and he didn't take out any cars and he didn't take out any houses.''
The F-16's from the 177th Fighter Wing, which are designed to attack targets on the ground and in the air, helped patrol the no-fly zones in Iraq and have been routinely patrolling the eastern United States as part of a homeland security mission since Sept. 11. The jet that crashed was not on such a patrol, officials said.
In the last decade, there have been five incidents involving the unit's airplanes, with one life lost and four planes destroyed. In August 2000, an F-16 pilot was rescued after ditching his plane in the ocean off Brigantine. In September 1997, two F-16's training over the Atlantic Ocean collided 60 miles southeast of Atlantic City. One plunged into the ocean; its two occupants ejected and were rescued. The other airplane returned safely.
In February 1997, an F-16 passed within 1,000 feet of a commercial airliner 70 miles east of Atlantic City, setting off collision-avoidance alarms but causing no injuries. And in April 1991, Maj. Robert D. Ashenfelter, 36, died on a training mission when his F-16 crashed into the ocean 60 miles off Atlantic City.