SAN DIEGO -- A Coast Guard helicopter rescued two Mirarmar-based Marine aviators about four hours after their fighter jet crashed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico early Thursday morning.
The Marine pilot and weapons officer were rescued about 2:30 a.m. and were in stable condition, said USCG Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry Dunphy, a spokesman for the agency. They were found in the water and hoisted aboard a Coast Guard helicopter, then immediately flown to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego for evaluation, he said.
Two F/A-18D Hornets based in Miramar were flying about 70 to 80 nautical miles south of Point Loma and about 30 miles off the coat at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday when communications with one of the pilots ended, Dunphy said. The second pilot called in, saying he spotted debris in the water.
Two San Diego-based Coast Guard cutters and a C-130 plane from Sacramento were immediately sent to look for the missing aviators, and a U.S Navy ship was diverted to the area to assist in the search. Rescuers aboard one of the cutters heard the Marines calling for help, Dunphy said.
The Hornet seats two people: a pilot and a weapon system officer. The F/A-18 Hornet is designed for dogfights and attacks on ground targets. It can carry a wide range of ordnance, including air-to-air and air- to-ground missiles.
The cause of the incident was under investigation, said Marine 1st Lt. Maureen Dooley of Miramar.
Thursday's crash was not the first in recent San Diego history involving an F/A-18 Hornet.
On Dec. 8, 2008, an F/A-18 Hornet crashed into a University City house while approaching Miramar, killing four family members inside. The crash also destroyed a next-door residence that was unoccupied at the time. The pilot, who safely ejected, was placed on probation for what military investigators called a series of bad decisions.
Last March, the engine on another F/A-18 Hornet exploded and caused a fire as the jet was about to launch from the USS John C. Stennis off the coast of San Diego. The aircraft was a total loss and 11 flight deck crew members were injured, but the pilot escaped unscathed.
So far this year, there have been five serious military accidents in the San Diego area. In addition to the crash Wednesday night and the explosion on the Stennis last March, there have been three fatal accidents at the sprawling Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base.
On Jan. 14, a 29-ton amphibious personnel carrier capsized and sank during maneuvers in the Del Mar Boat Basin, killing Iraq war veteran Sgt. Wesley J. Rice, 27, of San Antonio, Texas. A combination of mechanical failures, training lapses and insufficient supervision was blamed for the accident.
On March, 7, Navy Constructionman Mychael A. Flint, 21, of Fort Ann, N.Y., and Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel M. Shirar, 27, of Baytown, Texas, were killed when the seven-ton military water-hauling truck they were in crashed during a training operation.
On July 6, one Marine was killed and five others injured when the Bell UH-1Y Huey helicopter they were on went down in an open, hilly area in the northwestern reaches of Camp Pendleton. The Marine who died was identified as Sgt. Trevor Cook, 25, of Orleans, N.Y.
Marines survive jet crash off coast
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