BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — The Air Force says a pilot is safe after an F-16C fighter jet crashed in Clinton, Maryland around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday.
The Air Force said Wednesday that the pilot was on a training mission in an F-16 from the Joint Base Andrews-based 113th Wing. He ejected and is safe. The plane went down a about six miles from Joint Base Andrews.
Air Force officials said the National Air Guard member likely encountered mechanical problems while conducting a routine training exercise.
“Once he realized he would not be able to safely land the aircraft he made a decision to maneuver to a wooden area to avoid the risk to local communities,” said General George Degnon.
Nearby residents say their homes shook. Children at a nearby school apparently saw the pilot eject.
Prince George’s County Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady said homes in the area, between 40 and 50, are being evacuated but there are no other reports of injuries.
Dozens of people came home to crime scene tape blocking their streets. They were locked out as crews tried to clean up any dangerous debris.
Some folks tell WJZ they saw the plane come down. Some heard it. Others had no idea what happened until they drove up to find police tape blocking their streets.
“I heard the noise. I heard the planes flying, and then the house starts shaking. Then, a couple seconds later, I heard a boom,” Tyrone Wolridge said.
Tyrone and Tina Wolridge heard it before they saw it.
First there was a cloud of smoke, followed by sirens and flashing lights as emergency responders rushed to the Clinton neighborhood.
“It’s just a scary feeling. It’s the uneasiness of not knowing what’s going on,” Tina Wolridge said.
They live less than half a mile from where the fighter jet spiraled to the ground. Witnesses say the jet went nose up before it came crashing down.
Police and fire, almost immediately put Clinton Grove Elementary into lock-down and evacuated 50 nearby homes.
Debris scattered in some yards.
“My first reaction is, did it hit the house?” Bernard Epps said.
Epps waited hours behind the yellow tape to get to his mother on the other side.
Many in Prince George’s County are now relieved to know she’s OK.
“The lord had to be looking out for her. This whole area. It could have been a tragedy here,” Epps said.
Hours after the crash there is still a heavy military presence in a neighborhood where the F16 crashed.
One homeowner even showed some of the damage caused by the jet moments before it landed in the wooded area.
“Whatever it was went through the window or at least through the front part of it,” Reggie Stewart said.
Stewart told WJZ his came home to find more than just a broken window. He said his deck was in disarray and inside the home.
“When we came in, there was water here on the floor,” he said.
His backroom sprinkler apparently broke and flooded the area. Some homeowners also documenting debris found on their lawns.
“I thought it was an earthquake,” Stewart said.
Many of the people credited the pilot for putting the jet down in a wooded area and not into one of the neighborhoods, where the damage could have been much worse.
The aircraft was flying along with other DCANG aircraft in a routine training mission.
ABC 7 has these photos of the pilot after the ejection, and Twitter user Kent Roberson has a photo of a smoke plume that appeared in the sky around the time of the crash.
Prince George’s County Police say Piscataway Road at Temple Hills Road and Tippett Road at Accokeek Road were closed a “lenghty” time.
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