Fighter Jet Crashes After Takeoff From March Air Reserve Base

MORENO VALLEY (CNS) - An F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed into a warehouse just west of March Air Reserve Base in Moreno Valley today while departing the airfield, where the pilot safely ejected before his plane went down, leaving three people injured on the ground.

The pilot walked away after parachuting onto the end of Runway 32, according to reports from the scene. It could not be immediately confirmed if he was taken to a hospital for examination.

The three people hurt at the crash site were taken to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley for treatment of minor injuries, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The armed F-16, reportedly attached to an Air National Guard unit based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, went down about 3:45 p.m. and crashed into the See Water Inc. warehouse at 22220 Opportunity Way, near Meridian Parkway, in the Arnold Heights neighborhood just off of Interstate 215.

A county fire battalion chief confirmed that the F-16 was carrying ordnance, prompting a hazardous materials response. The entire neighborhood was cordoned off, and occupants of surrounding buildings were ordered to shelter in place.

The California Highway Patrol shut down both sides of I-215 for public safety, in case of explosions. The Metrolink tracks paralleling the freeway were also closed.

The F-16 punched a huge hole in the roof of the 500,000-square-foot building, causing a fire that triggered the on-site sprinkler system, which contained the flames, according to fire officials.

The structure is stacked with plastic pipes, aluminum awnings and other materials, according to the CHP, which received the 911 calls.

March is home to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, an Air Force Reserve component that utilizes mammoth C-17 transports, KC-135 refueling tankers and C- 130 transports.

Fighter jets are a rare sight at the base.

The last tactical jet crash at March occurred in 1989, when it was still an active-duty Air Force installation. That accident involved a fatality, according to published reports.

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