RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Live ammunition from an F-16 fighter jet that crashed through the roof of a Southern California warehouse was safely destroyed Friday afternoon and miles of closed freeway were reopened.
KABC-TV video showed the ordnance blowing up in huge clouds of dirt after being buried in trenches at March Air Reserve Base.
A miles-long stretch of Interstate 215 was reopened and evacuations were cancelled for most nearby businesses, although those closest to the warehouse remained off-limits.
The F-16 crashed Thursday afternoon after the pilot reported hydraulic problems and started losing control of the aircraft, authorities have said. The plane crashed into a commercial warehouse near the base, which is southeast of Los Angeles.
The pilot ejected safely before the crash and was in good condition, McNamara said. The pilot’s name was not released.
The Air National Guard jet, which remained in the warehouse, was carrying a “standard armament” package, Col. Thomas McNamara, vice commander of the Air Force Reserve’s 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base, said at a news conference.
He didn’t provide details but the F-16 can carry bombs and missiles.
There was no explosion from the crash and no serious injuries among workers at the business.
Three trauma patients remained hospitalized in stable condition and 10 others, including sheriff’s deputies who entered the warehouse to search for possible victims, were treated for exposure to debris and released, authorities said.
Authorities cordoned off an area for 3/4 of a mile (1.21 kilometers) around the scene, including a section of heavily traveled Interstate 215.
No residential areas were involved, but the closure affected businesses and adjacent Riverside National Cemetery, authorities said.
“There were about 30 ceremonies that were going to take place out there today that other arrangements have had to be made,” said Bruce Barton, director of emergency management for Riverside County.
The crash occurred during a training mission, March Air Reserve Base Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Holliday said.
Holiday said it was a “miracle” the jet didn’t cause a fire or explosion.
A warehouse worker said he heard a deafening noise before the jet smashed into the building about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Los Angeles.
“Next thing I know I just hear this explosion and turn around to the back of the building, and I just seen a burst of flames and just the ceiling started falling through every part of the building,” Daniel Gallegos told KABC-TV. “I just made a run for it.”
The F-16 was under the direction of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The pilot is from the 144th Fighter Wing, an Air National Guard unit based in Fresno, and the F-16 belongs to the South Dakota Air National Guard in Sioux Falls.
The base is home to the Air Force Reserve Command’s Fourth Air Force Headquarters and various units of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, California Air National Guard and California Army National Guard.
Antczak reported from Los Angeles. AP writer Robert Jablon contributed.