EL TORO, Calif. -- More than a half-million spectators witnessed the fiery crash that killed the pilot of a Korean War-era jet fighter during an air show at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
No spectators were injured, although some were watching from as close as 500 yards from the runway when the F-86 Sabre crashed yesterday and burst into flames.
James A. Gregory, 40, of Amelia Island, Fla., died upon impact, said Orange County Deputy Coroner Pat Lorey.
The crash at the Marine station was the third in the past eight years at the air show. Previous crashes injured one flier and killed two others.
The U.S.-built Sabre, which is capable of supersonic speeds, swooped down and skimmed its belly on the ground, bursting into flames.
"I just don't understand it at all," said T.J. Brown, a pilot who co-owned the jet with Mr. Gregory. "He had flown the plane 19 times in the last 16 days. He was a very competent pilot."
Smoke billowed from the wreckage as rescue vehicles, including a helicopter, rushed to the scene.
The crash frightened and horrified spectators. Some cried and others comforted each other.
Many people headed for the exits after the crash.
Despite the crash, yesterday's show resumed within 90 minutes as the featured attraction, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, performed aerobatic maneuvers.
Federal Aviation Administration officials issued an announcement over the public-address system, asking anyone who videotaped the crash to give the recording to authorities.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.