Reports are coming in that a Naval FA/18 Hornet jet fighter crashed into an apartment building in Virginia Beach, Virginia near Naval Airstation Oceana. A traffic cam video from a local news station shows smoke coming from off-camera near I-264.
A witness at the scene claims to have spoken to one of the pilots who said, "I'm sorry for crashing into your apartment complex." More below.
UPDATE 1 There's a livestream of the accident right here on WTKR-TV.
UPDATE 2: A photo added from WAVY who say that the two pilots ejected safely and were taken to a local hospital.
UPDATE 3 (1:27 PM EST): Now we have the video over on the left of the aftermath as black smoke billows out from the crashed jet.
UPDATE 4: New shot at the top showing the tail wreckage of the crashed F-18 via WKTR.
UPDATE 5 (1:29 PM EST): We're told of reports of "mass casualties" — but those could mean deaths or injuries. Also, Gizmodo spoke to Lieutenant Commander Mike Kafka from the US Navy:
This morning an F18 assigned to 106 training squad crashed just outside the US Naval Airbase Oceana. Both pilots safely ejected. Lt. Kafka said they'd heard reports that the plane crashed into a apartment complex, but fell short of actually confirming them. He said both military and nonmilitary responders were on the ground. Couldn't confirm reports of an casualties on the ground and said that the cause of the crash was still unknown at the time.
UPDATE 5 (1:32 PM EST): According to WTKR, Pat Cavanaugh, a witness on the ground — and retired squad member — just said he saw the pilot, who said "I'm sorry for crashing into your apartment complex."
UPDATE 6 (1:36 PM EST): We now have video of the fires in the apartment complex just moments after it happened. The video is from a viewer of WTKR in Virginia Beach.
UPDATE 7 (1:38 PM EST): We're overhearing from the fire department scanners that the firemen are dumping water on the plane now for purposes of vapor and carbon fiber suppression.
UPDATE 8 (1:41 PM EST): Our own Ben Preston used to live in Virginia Beach. Here's his thoughts on what it was like living nearby the airbase:
Virginia Beach hovers somewhere between laid back beach town and military powerhouse, with many cars sporting "I Love Jet Noise" stickers on their back bumpers. Jet noise, or "the sound of freedom," as many call it, is a way of life. I lived there for three years, and phone conversations were usually punctuated with, "PPPFFFFCCCCKKKAAAAAA!!! ...Stand by. Jet." They flew right over my house near the corner of Baltic and Arctic. My fellow Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service ocean patrol guards and I were regularly treated to impromptu F/A-18 aerobatic maneuvers and Navy Seal parachute landings, performed over the Atlantic Ocean. Today's crash is a real tragedy.
UPDATE 9 (2:03 PM EST): According to WKTR, five civillians have been taken to the hospital, but the extent of their injuries is not yet known.
UPDATE 10 (2:04 PM EST): Here's a map of the crash zone — it's what's called an "Accident Potential Zone (APZ) map." Here's a definition of what that means:
Additionally, the DoD identifies APZ's as a planning tool for local planning agencies. APZ's are areas where an aircraft mishap is most likely to occur if one occurs. They do not reflect the probability of an accident. APZ's follow arrival, departure and pattern flight tracks and are based upon analysis of historical data. For an area to be deemed an APZ, a minimum 5,000 flight operations- landing or takeoff- have to occur annually. The AICUZ map defines three APZ's- the Clear Zone, APZ 1, and APZ 2. The Clear Zone extends 3,000 feet beyond the runway and has the highest potential for accidents. APZ 1 extends 5,000 feet beyond the Clear Zone, and APZ 2 extends 7,000 feet beyond APZ1. An accident is more likely to occur in APZ 1 than APZ 2 and more likely to occur in the Clear Zone than in either APZ 1 or APZ 2.
The apartment complex was in an APZ 2, which means a lower probability of a crash than APZ 1.
UPDATE 11 (2:45 PM EST): Here's an amazing shot of the pilot's ejection seat after it landed next to a house near the crash site. [SOURCE]
UPDATE 12 (2:49 PM EST):
A YouTube user caught another angle of the fire that occurred immediately after the crash. You can see a fire crew on the scene trying to put the roof out.
(Hat tip to Scott)