VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — On camera, the F/A-18 jet that slammed into a bank of apartments on Good Friday is nothing more than a slice of silver, a blur of metal moving so fast you’d miss it if you blinked.
In security camera footage recently released by the Virginia Beach Fire Department, the camera pans left and right, capturing a quiet morning at the Mayfair Mews apartment complex off Birdneck Road in April. A few cars dot the parking lot.
Then there is a flash of something silver, followed by a burst of smoke and debris. The camera shakes, then twists away from the buildings and toward Birdneck Road.
In the seconds that follow, there is an eerie sense of calm. A car leaves the parking lot, its driver perhaps unaware of what just took place. No one in range of the camera comes outside.
Then the camera sweeps back toward the residences, revealing a gaping hole the jet punched into the apartments. The jet had clipped the complex parking lot, then bounced and slid into the two apartment buildings, according to an account of the crash written by city fire officials and published in the November issue of Fire Engineering magazine.
As minutes tick by, neighbors begin to pool in the parking lot. A police officer shows up, walking up to the site, then jogging a bit as he gets closer. A family hurriedly walks away from the complex as the first fire department vehicle speeds up.
The bright orange flames grow stronger each time the camera sweeps back to the crash site. Plumes of black smoke begin to billow toward the parking lot.
The video ends as rescue efforts begin. Fire trucks arrive on the scene and police begin to move the small crowd in the parking lot back toward Birdneck Road.
None of the 84 people who lived in the apartment complex the day of the crash were killed or seriously injured. The two Navy pilots suffered only minor injuries after they successfully ejected from the jet right before impact.
After an investigation, the Navy announced that a rare, dual-engine failure shortly after takeoff caused the crash.