Two Navy warplanes collide during training, 27 feared dead


SAN DIEGO -- A pair of Navy submarine-hunting planes conducting warfare training in rough weather collided in a fireball over the Pacific, and the weather may have been a factor in the deaths of the 27 crew members.

The Navy conducted an aggressive search into today although there was little hope of survivors in the cold, choppy waters. Search teams recovered some wreckage yesterday, but no bodies were found.

The two P-3 Orions stationed at Moffett Naval Air Station in Northern California were taking part in anti-submarine warfare exercises when they crashed yesterday morning off the Mexican coast, about 60 miles southwest of San Diego.

Strong winds and rain hit the San Diego area overnight Wednesday.

About three hours after the planes collided, a funnel cloud was sighted about five miles off San Diego's Mission Beach. The Navy was uncertain what part, if any, weather played in the collision, said Senior Chief Petty Officer Bob Howard, a Navy public affairs officer at North Island Naval Air Station.

Officially, the crews were listed as missing. The names of those on board were not released.

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