By , AMY TAXIN and JOHN ANTCZAK
Published May 17, 2019
An F-16 fighter jet that crashed through the roof of a Southern California warehouse was armed with live ammunition and authorities planned to dispose of its ordnance Friday, authorities said.
The Air National Guard jet was carrying a "standard armament" package, Col. Thomas McNamara, vice commander of the Air Force Reserve's 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base, said at a news conference.
The F-16 can carry bombs and missiles. McNamara didn't provide details of the ordnance but said the weaponry had been removed from the jet, which remained inside the warehouse.
The F-16 crashed Thursday afternoon when the pilot reported hydraulic problems and the pilot started losing control of the aircraft, authorities have said. The plane crashed into a commercial warehouse near the base, which is southeast of Los Angeles.
The pilot ejected safely before the crash and was in good condition, McNamara said. The pilot's name was not released.
There was no explosion and no serious injuries among workers at the business.
Three trauma patients remained hospitalized in stable condition and 10 others, including sheriff's deputies who entered the warehouse to search for possible victims, were treated for exposure to debris and released, authorities said.
Authorities cordoned off an area for three-quarters of a mile (1.21 kilometers) around the scene, including a section of heavily traveled Interstate 215.
"Avoid this area at all costs," said Terri Kasinga, district spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.
No residential areas were involved, but the closure affected businesses and adjacent Riverside National Cemetery, authorities said.
"There were about 30 ceremonies that were going to take place out there today that other arrangements have had to be made," said Bruce Barton, director of emergency management for Riverside County.
The crash occurred during a training mission, March Air Reserve Base Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Holliday said.
"The pilot was having hydraulic problems," he said. "He started losing control of the aircraft."
Holiday said it was a "miracle" the jet didn't cause a fire or explosion.
A warehouse worker said he heard a deafening noise before the jet smashed into the building about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Los Angeles.
"Next thing I know I just hear this explosion and turn around to the back of the building, and I just seen a burst of flames and just the ceiling started falling through every part of the building," Daniel Gallegos told KABC-TV. "I just made a run for it."
The F-16 was under the direction of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The pilot is from the 144th Fighter Wing, an Air National Guard unit based in Fresno, and the F-16 belongs to the South Dakota Air National Guard in Sioux Falls.
The base is home to the Air Force Reserve Command's Fourth Air Force Headquarters and various units of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, California Air National Guard and California Army National Guard.
Antczak reported from Los Angeles. AP writer Robert Jablon contributed.