Authorities are investigating why an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet crashed into a warehouse west of March Air Reserve Base Thursday afternoon. The pilot and twelve other people on the ground were injured.
The F-16 attached to the 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota went down around 3:45 p.m. Thursday, crashing into the See Water Inc. warehouse located in Riverside, California, authorities said. The pilot was on a training mission for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) managed to walk away after ejecting and parachuting onto the end of Runway 32.
Twelve people on the ground were hosed off for exposure to debris before they were taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment of minor injuries, authorities said. They've all since been released.
The F-16 left an enormous hole inside the roof of the 500,000-square-foot building, causing a fire that triggered the on-site sprinkler systems, which helped to contain the flames, officials said. Officials said the aircraft was carrying a 'standard ordnance package' but declined to specify what those included at a press conference Friday afternoon. The aircraft is capable of carrying multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as a 20mm cannon.
A warehouse worker told NBC 4 that he heard the noise of the F-16 just moments before it crashed in the roof of the building where he worked. The witness managed to capture some dramatic footage of the incident shortly after it occurred.
Fire officials had to take a cautious approach when trying to extinguish the fire.
“Anything that may be in (the warehouse) is a concern, obviously not just to (firefighters), but to the military,” Riverside County Fire Department Capt. Fernando Herrera said. “So we're going to take whatever precautions are necessary.”
Firefighters and military personnel re-entered the building around 10 p.m. to assess the danger, but no update was provided.
Interstate 215 was shut down in both directions by the California Highway Patrol, in case there were any explosions.
Fighter jets are a rarity at March Air Reserve, which is home to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, an Air Force Reserve which uses the gigantic C-17 transports, KC-135 refueling tankers and C-130 transports.
The last time a jet crashed at the air reserve base was in 1989, when it was still being used as an active-duty Air Force installation.