YUMA, Ariz. – A Marine died Wednesday after an aircraft operated by a civilian crashed on a runway at a southwest Arizona military base, Marine Corps officials said.
The T-59 Hawk crashed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma around 11:45 a.m.
The Marine was injured when the crash "impacted a government vehicle" and was later pronounced dead at Yuma Regional Medical Center, the Marine Corps said. The two people in the plane were examined at the hospital and released.
Pvt. Casey Scarpulla said the aircraft veered off the runway but could not say what the Marine was doing there.
"Everything is still under investigation," Scarpulla said. "We don't know at this point."
Brady Ieler, who was working outside a Ford dealership, said the plane appeared to hit the ground at an angle, as if it were about to land but something went wrong.
"I saw a smaller aircraft go straight down, and then there was a big explosion, and smoke filled the sky within 10 seconds," he said.
Kyle Underhill said he was taking out the trash at his battery shop when he heard a "loud boom" that shook the building.
"When I turned around, I just saw the nose of the jet with a bunch of smoke up behind it," Underhill said. "It probably went out about 40 yards. When it stopped, you could see some people were out of it."
According to Underhill, firefighters arrived at the burning aircraft within a few minutes.
"As soon as they hit it with the water, it just kind of exploded — nothing but flames and black smoke," Underhill said.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency was investigating the crash because the aircraft is registered to a civilian. Gregor did not yet know the details of the flight.
FAA records show the aircraft is owned by a Nevada company called Air USA. According to the company's website, it provides contract services to the U.S. military and defense contractors.
Military officials didn't release the Marine's name pending notification of next of kin.