via Associated Press
CLINTON, Md. (AP) — A fighter jet pilot on a training mission ejected safely before the aircraft crashed Wednesday in a wooded area in a Washington suburb. Witnesses reported the sound of live ammunition.
The D.C. Air National Guard F-16C went down about 200 yards behind a small subdivision of two-story brick homes in the middle-class suburban community of Clinton, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) southwest of Joint Base Andrews. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the plane was carrying live rounds. The military planned a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
No injuries were reported on the ground, Prince George’s County Fire and EMS spokesman Mark Brady said. About 20 homes in the area were evacuated as a precaution because of the possibility that the crash released hazardous materials, Brady said. Area residents were later allowed to return home.
Crystal Hollingsworth lives nearby and said she heard a “huge crash” followed by the sound of “live rounds.”
“You knew something tragic was going on,” she said, adding that she thought it might be a terrorist attack.
Her husband, Tony Hollingsworth, said the “house shook” and he also heard the sound of gunshots in the woods, something that “sounded like a shootout.” He said it lasted for “10 to 15 minutes.”
He said he saw a big fireball in the woods and the pilot’s red and white parachute. Officials said the pilot was evaluated at a hospital and was in good condition.
Crystal Hollingsworth said pieces of the plane fell in her neighbor’s yard, damaging some of the home’s siding. She said there were probably more than a dozen metal fragments, maybe about half an inch thick.
Pieces from the crash ranged in size, some about the size of a TV remote or a book. She said one was marked “confidential.” Some of the debris was still burning when she saw it, she said.
Tyrone Wolridge and his wife said it felt like an earthquake and they saw a plume of smoke.
“We could feel it. The house shook so bad. Then we heard a boom,” he said.
Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko, Sarah Brumfield and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.