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 on 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 December 8 crash that hit the home of a Korean family, killing four people.
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 nose 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.
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.