All residents of an apartment complex for the elderly in Virginia that was destroyed when a US Navy fighter jet crashed into it on Friday have been accounted for, with only one person still hospitalized with minor injuries, a rescue crew chief said on Saturday.
Many residents are now seeking somewhere to live after spending last night in a Red Cross shelter, officials said.
“Everyone has been accounted for” at the Mayfair Mews complex in Virginia Beach, the city’s fire Chief Tim Riley said, after crews had searched into the night for three missing residents since the midday crash. “We are not actively looking for anyone.”
One of the aviators was still in the hospital Saturday morning in good condition, though believed to have broken bones, Riley said. The crash injured seven people in all, including both crew members, and damaged six buildings in the complex.
Officials who scoured the blackened shells for bodies and others who witnessed the crash said they were amazed no one was killed or seriously injured in the fiery crash.
“It’s a miracle,” said Mary Hancock, a city spokesperson.
Said Riley: “We’re considered very fortunate for this event.”
But rescue crews have not yet issued an “all-clear” and continue combing through layers of debris to make sure no passers-by or others are underneath. Riley said that as of Saturday morning there have been no reports of missing people.
“We have a high level of certainty, 95 or 96 certain that no one is there. But we can’t be 100 percent certain” until the clean-up is finished, he said.
The U.S. Navy F/A-18 jet fighter suffered what a Pentagon official described as “a catastrophic mechanical malfunction” during a training flight before it crashed shortly after take-off. Both crew members ejected and one was found still strapped into his ejection seat.
Thick black clouds of smoke billowed into the air as fire reduced the apartment buildings to a blackened shell. The Mayfair Mews complex was less than two miles (3.2 km) from Naval Air Station Oceana, where the F-18 was based.
Riley said officials are now attending to the needs of the up to 63 residents whose apartment units were destroyed, including finding long-term housing for them.
All the residents without housing will have a meeting on Saturday afternoon with officials from the Red Cross and the Navy to
discuss options for housing.
The Red Cross will continue to provide shelter to anyone who needs it through the weekend, Virginia Beach’s Hancock said.