Beach firefighters reveal how they handled jet crash in magazine article

Posted at 8:28 PM, Nov 27, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-27 20:28:15-05

The crashing Navy fighter jet is hurtling so fast the surveillance camera catches if for just two frames.

The first, a grey smudge in the corner, and the second, what looks like a wing screaming by.

In the video, you can see the fireball reflected on the side of the pickup truck. The camera shakes, but keeps sweeping side to side, revealing what happened in the moments after a two-seat Navy Hornet, fully loaded with fuel, crashed into an apartment complex. Unbelievably, no one was killed and all the injuries were minor.

Several Beach firefighters, including Mike Barakey, revealed this month in a magazine article how they handled the catastrophe. Barakey was first on the scene and told dispatchers all the 911 callers were right.

“Confirming three buildings on fire and one Navy jet down. I could actually see the tail section,” says Barakey.

At the height of the fire, they were dousing the carnage with 7,000 gallons of water per minute. That kind of deluge is so rarely needed that city utility workers had to crank up the flow.

“They were called early and boosted the pressure in that area and gave us all the water we could handle and that's why the fire was knocked down in 40 minutes,” says Barakey.

The firefighters also revealed Navy pilots circling low at first drowned out radio calls from rescuers.

“At 500 feet, having Hornets flying overhead in a circular pattern, it was very hard to communicate on the radios,” says Barakey.

The city's 911 center quickly called Oceana, and the jets returned to the base. That, the firefighters said, was the key to controlling all this. It was a combination of training and relationships built with the Navy over decades.

In short, they trained and planned for something that had not happened in 25 years. But when it did, they were ready.