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Three dead in San Diego jet crash

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A US military F-18 fighter jet has crashed in a San Diego neighbourhood, killing three people on the ground. Smoke billows from the site of the crash

A US military F-18 fighter jet has crashed into a residential area of San Diego, killing three people on the ground and injuring the pilot.

The San Diego Fire Department described the scene of the crash as "a heavily populated area" near Interstate 805.

TV footage showed plumes of white smoke rising from several houses.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the jet had crashed as it prepared to land at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and that the pilot had ejected.

The crash occurred two miles (3.2km) from the base, it added.

Personnel from Air Station Miramar, famous for its role in the movie Top Gun, have been dispatched to the crash site to investigate.

The Marine Corps said the jet, a two-seater F/A-18D Hornet, had been on a training mission with only one pilot on board.

Mayor Jerry Sanders and a military official sent out their condolences to the families of the victims, whose identities have yet to be released.

'Out of control'

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the supersonic fighter had gone down in the University City area of San Diego at about 1200 (2000 GMT).

Fire caused by plane crash in San Diego (8 December 2008)
Both houses were totally engulfed in flames... I saw one pilot walking around and he was dazed
Donny James, witness

Kurt Miller, who lives a few blocks from the crash site, told the BBC he had seen the jet coming in and thought it "seemed a little low".

"I did not notice billowing black smoke from the engines or anything, however there were some noticeable fumes, which I originally just thought was exhaust," he said.

"I did not realise until about 40 minutes later, on my way back to work, that they jet had actually crashed... barely missing the local high school."

Donny James, who was visiting the area, said the jet had "spiralled out of control, just like out of Top Gun" before coming down.

He said he was unable to get closer to the scene because two houses were on fire. One was destroyed and another was badly damaged, he added.

"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," Mr James told CNN.

The pilot's parachute got caught in a nearby tree (8 December 2008)
The pilot ejected before the crash and there was no ordnance on board

Debris from the aircraft, including one of its engines, is strewn around the neighbourhood, reports say. Officials have urged anybody who finds any parts to leave them and report them to authorities.

Witnesses said the pilot had landed in a tree close to the crash site. He was later taken to Balboa Naval Hospital with injuries, officials said.

The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani in Los Angeles says there have been concerns voiced by local people in the past about the frequency of flights by military aircraft over residential areas in California.

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SEE ALSO
In pictures: San Diego jet crash
09 Dec 08 |  In Pictures
US fighter pilot dies after crash
21 Feb 08 |  Americas

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