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San Diego jet crash 'avoidable'

Investigators at the scene of the jet crash
Jet wreckage was spread around the streets

Mechanical breakdowns compounded by human error led to the crash of a US marine jet in December that killed four people on the ground, the marines said.

The jet was having engine problems and attempting to land at Miramar air base in San Diego when it crashed.

Four marine officers have been relieved of duty for allowing the disabled jet to fly over a residential area.

The jet should have attempted a landing at another base with an approach over water, marine investigators said.

Nine other marine personnel have received lesser reprimands, the Associated Press (AP) news agency said.

A member of the US House of Representatives briefed by the marines on the accident told AP the crash could have been avoided.

'Complex emergency'

The F-18 fighter jet destroyed two houses in suburban San Diego after the pilot ejected out of the aircraft when it lost power approaching Miramar air base.

Four members of one family were killed, including two babies, their mother and their grandmother, who was visiting from South Korea.

The right engine of the plane gave out with an oil leak shortly after it took off from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on a training flight, marine Col John Rupp told a news briefing.

Instead of opting to land at Naval Air Station North Island, on the tip of a peninsula in San Diego Bay, the pilot attempted to make it to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station - several miles inland with residential communities nearby.

North Island is approached over water and there are fewer buildings to hit if things go wrong. Air traffic controllers told the pilot three times that he was cleared to land at North Island, flight tapes released by the Federal Aviation Administration revealed.

As the jet approached Miramar, its other engine failed and the pilot safely ejected.

"These malfunctions in combination presented the pilot with a complex emergency that was compounded by a series of well-intentioned but incorrect decisions, both inside the cockpit and in the squadron's ready room," said Col Rupp.

The pilot has been grounded while Marine officials decide whether to discipline him.

Four senior officers have been relieved of duty - meaning they will probably not be promoted.

Nine other marines have received less career-damaging reprimands.

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

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