Two die as Top Gun pilot crashes into San Diego suburbs

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The Independent US

A US F-18 military jet crashed into a San Diego suburban neighbourhood yesterday, killing two people on the ground, while attempting to land at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

Neighbours saw the jet wobble overhead before it crashed in a ball of fire. The pilot, who managed to eject before the crash, was seen wandering around in a daze. He parachuted out of the jet and came down in the baseball field of a school. The pilot was on a training mission and officials said he attempted to aim the plane at a deserted canyon to avoid coming down on houses or the 805 Freeway.

One house was destroyed and another damaged when the plane came down before noon. The identities of the people killed have not yet been released.

Television footage showed smoke coming from homes in the University Hills section of San Diego about two miles from the marine air station, famous for its role in the Tom Cruise film Top Gun. The crash occurred two miles from the base.

Donny James, who was visiting his mother in the area, said the supersonic fighter had been flying at very low altitude. "It spiralled out of control, just like out of Top Gun, and then it came down," he told CNN.

Mr James said he was unable to get closer to the scene because two houses were on fire. "Both houses were totally engulfed in flames. I saw a pilot walking around and he was dazed. The police were telling everyone to get out of the way," he added.

A spokesman for the San Diego police department, Monica Munoz, said the injured pilot was later taken to Balboa Naval Hospital.

"We are still trying to confirm the aircraft even belongs to us," said the base spokeswoman, Marine Staff Sergeant Bobbie Bryant.

Debris from the aircraft, including one of its engines, was strewn around the neighbourhood, reports say.