Military Pilot 'Screamed In Horror' When Jet Hit University City Home - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Military Pilot 'Screamed In Horror' When Jet Hit University City Home

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(AP) - A military pilot who ejected from a crippled fighter over a San Diego neighborhood "screamed in horror" when he saw the jet had crashed into a home, according to documents released Tuesday.

A statement by the pilot submitted to investigators describes how Lt. Dan Neubauer struggled to control the malfunctioning F/A-18D Hornet in the minutes before the Dec. 8 crash that killed four people on the ground and incinerated two homes.

Neubauer was on a training flight from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln when he was forced to shut down one engine because of mechanical trouble. The hobbled jet was told to bypass a coastal Navy base that offered an approach over water and to instead fly inland over San Diego to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

As the plane's second engine failed short of the base, he cursed, then attempted to direct the doomed jet away from homes, he wrote.

"I knew I had to get out. I pulled the no! se up a little bit and then reached down between my legs for the ejection handle," Neubauer wrote.

Safely ejected and dangling below his parachute, he looked down to trace the jet's plunge.

"It had gone right into a house. I screamed in horror when I realized what had just happened," Neubauer wrote.

The statement, released to The Associated Press under federal open-records law, represents the pilot's first public comment on what happened that afternoon.

The military disciplined 13 members of the Marines and Navy after the crash, which was blamed on mechanical problems and a string of bad decisions that led Neubauer to bypass a potentially safe landing at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado.

Previously released recordings of conversations between federal air controllers and the pilot show he was repeatedly offered a chance to land the plane at the Navy base, which sits at the tip of a peninsula with a flight path over San Diego Bay.

The statement shows Neubauer was first ordered to go to North Island after his engine trouble started. He was about 20 miles away from the base when that changed, and he was directed to go to Miramar.

According to a military investigation, officers at Miramar cleared the pilot to go to the inland base, favoring Miramar's longer runway and assuming the pilot was closer to the base.

Neubauer's statement, written in jargon-filled prose, nonetheless provides a dramatic look inside the cockpit as he attempted to control the ailing aircraft.

Among other things, he appeared to be puzzled when ordered to go to Miramar rather than North Island. "I repeated the information to make sure that I understood," he wrote. "They replied affirmative."

Four members of a Korean family were killed in their home - Young Mi Yoon, 36; her daughters Grace, 15 months, and Rachel, 2 months; and her mother Suk Im Kim, 60. Kim was visiting from South Korea to help her daughter move across town and adjust to the arrival of her second child.

Marine generals initially defended the choice to send the Hornet to Miramar. In the weeks following the crash, a lingering question has been why the pilot didn't attempt a landing at North Island over open water. Miramar is ringed by freeways and bordered on its western end by residential areas that include a high school.


Associated Press Writer Richard Lardner contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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