A US Marine Corps F-18 fighter-bomber crashed into a residential area in Southern California city of San Diego on Monday, destroying two houses and killing three people on the ground, officials said.
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This video frame grab image taken from KGTV television shows the scene where an F18 military jet crashed in a San Diego neighborhood, Monday December, 8, 2008, sparking at least one house fire. [Agencies]
Officials said three people were killed and one is missing after the plane crashed into homes three kilometers from the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.
Authorities who were trying to identify the dead believed that the two victims were a mother and child, said Maurice Luque, spokeswoman for the San Diego Fire Department. But the third victim was unidentified.
The pilot of the two-seat F-18 Hornet ejected safely with minor injuries, said US Marine Corps spokesman Stephen Paap, adding that the jet was on a training mission and carrying a single pilot at the time of the crash.
The student pilot was en route from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, operating in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego, according to the spokesman.
Television footage shows smoke coming from homes in the University City section of San Diego, where the crash occurred just before noon.
Eyewitnesses at the University City High School close to the crash site said they heard a loud boom and then saw a plane go down. The school had been put on lockdown and no one was allowed to leave.
There were massive traffic jams in the area after the plane crash, making it difficult for firefighters and police to reach the neighborhood, witnesses said.
The F/A-18 supersonic jet debuted more than 20 years ago and has become the workhorse of the US Navy and Marine Corps fleet. San Diego, once dubbed "a Navy town", is the home port for one third of the US Naval Pacific Fleet.