Investigation begins into cause of jet crash

Posted at 10:10 AM, Apr 08, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-08 10:10:00-04

“You heard this three really loud booms. And by the time we turned and said something to each other, glass got thrown all the way to the living room,” he says.

Sam Bertling was celebrating his birthday with friends when a Navy fighter jet crashed less than a football field from his home.

“It happened so fast,” he said.

This morning, peering over his backyard fence, he could see the blackened remains of the F-18’s twin tail fins.

A block away, Tara Silvasy was on her couch reading when she heard explosions outside.

“I looked up and I heard this crash, and something had hit my house,” she said.

A part of the plane smashed into the corner of her 24th Street home, crashing through the wall. At first she didn’t know what happened. She ran outside and heard neighbors screaming about a jet crash.

“I looked out my window and that’s when I saw the ejector seat, a pilot ejector seat. And then I really started to panic because then I thought maybe the pilot could have been in there, or been in the backyard,” she says.

Today a team of sailors looking for jet debris visited Tara’s house, where an ejection seat landed. The ruffled the grass and poked through the bushes. At a news conference today, officials said the scattered debris will be crucial to understanding what brought down the fighter.

“We will take all those parts and put them in Hangar 23 over at NAS Oceana and lay them all out,” says Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr., Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

They will also look for the plane’s digital data recorder, similar to an airliner’s black box, to help them recreate the jet’s tumultuous final moments that ended with a horrifying crash in an Oceanfront area neighborhood. But as awful as this was no one is believed to have perished in the Good Friday crash. Navy officials revealed even the battered pilots, a student and instructor, are home from the hospital. And at homes across Birdneck Road, neighbors are beginning to realize, sometimes with tears, how lucky they all were.

“Yesterday, early on, it was a bad day, but it got better. I was quite hysterical for a while. It is scary. Bad things could have happened yesterday. So I think we’re all fortunate. And we’re glad the pilots are OK,” she says.

“I don’t speak for anybody’s religious beliefs, but the mayor and I both agreed if you want to find a miracle, what happened here yesterday meets that definition for me,” said Admiral Harvey.