Emotions run high at forum on jet crash
People at a community forum called in the aftermath of the deadly crash of a fighter jet in University City demanded accountability for the tragic accident and reassurance that it would never happen again.
They got both – and neither.
In an emotionally charged meeting called by new District 1 Citycouncilwoman Sherri Lightner held at University City High School Dec. 11, residents talked of feeling victimized and shocked in the aftermath of a tragic accident earlier in the week that killed a 37-year-old Korean man’s wife, two infant children and mother-in-law in their University City home.
The incident involved a disabled F/A-18D Hornet attempting to land at nearby Marine Corps Air Station Miramar which plunged into a residential area at Cather Avenue and Huggins Street destroying two homes and damaging several others just before noon on Dec. 8.
The pilot of the jet, who was on a training mission off the carrier Abraham Lincoln, had been ordered to fly to the military base rather than return to the ship after one of its engines failed.
He reportedly told a witness that his second engine went out as he neared Miramar, forcing him to bail out. He fell just short in his attempt to ditch the plane into an unoccupied canyon.
Lightner, Mayor Jerry Sanders and other public officials addressed the crowd.
“Probably all of us are feeling somewhat helpless and somewhat vulnerable after seeing an accident like this occur,” conceded Sanders. “My condolences to the family and I appreciate the support given by the community. What’s important is to get an investigation and find out what happened and how we can prevent that in the future.”
“I’d like to offer our condolences and prayers to the families most affected by the tragedy,” said Col. Christopher O’Connor, Miramar’s commanding officer. “Seamless integration and teamwork at the crash scene minimized loss of property and damages. Right now we’re conducting a thorough investigation of the cause of the mishap.”
During a heated question-and-answer period following remarks by public officials,
audience members vented, in turn defending – and attacking – the military and its handling of the incident.
“Our community has a scar,” noted David Skillan.
“Why aren’t you more outraged?” queried one audience member.
“I think we should reserve judgment until the investigation is done,” answered another.
At times, public comment turned ugly, with people suggesting the military was
withholding information or that the plane should have been diverted away from populated areas.
O’Connor said details of what went wrong will be determined by the ongoing investigation which will take time and will be disclosed once it’s complete.
Another audience member pointed out that property owners living in the area know they are in the flight path of a military airport.
Councilwoman Lightner implored the assemblage to be “more forgiving” in the wake of the tragedy.
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