‘A miracle.’ Neighbors marvel that no one was killed in Texas military plane crash
LAKE WORTH, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Residents of a Lake Worth neighborhood where a military training plane crashed were reeling Monday from what seemed like a highly improbable event — and from the reality that it could have been much worse.
The small plane — a Navy T-45C Goshawk jet trainer aircraft — crashed into a Lake Worth residential area shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday, according to the Lake Worth Police Department. The crash took place about two miles north of the Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth.
The two pilots — a student and an instructor — ejected from the plane before the crash; one landed in a wooded area and the other got caught in power lines and was shocked and burned. Both are hospitalized, authorities said Sunday evening.
A resident who lives on Dakota Trail, close to a doughnut shop near where one of the pilots landed, told the Star-Telegram on Sunday that he ran toward the pilot who had gotten caught in the power lines and saw him on fire before paramedics arrived.
“Although badly burnt, the pilot was conscious, alert and breathing,” Lake Worth police said in a news release. He was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas in critical condition. The other pilot was taken to a local hospital by ambulance with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
Three residents also sustained minor injuries, Lake Worth police said in a Sunday evening update.
But because the plane crashed into the back yard of a house, instead of into the house itself, no residents were killed or seriously injured. Lake Worth police called this “a miracle.”
By Monday morning, some military and emergency personnel remained in the area investigating and assessing damage, and both ends of Tejas Trail were still blocked with bright orange barrels.
The residents of the home where the plane crashed were displaced from the house, authorities said. On Monday morning, yellow tape stretched across the front porch posts and in front of the garage. The back yard, visible from the driveway, was piled with charred debris that barely resembled an aircraft.
Tony Scarbrough, who has lived on Tejas Trail for about a decade, said he was standing in a neighbor’s front yard when he heard an explosion and saw the plane heading down a little ways away. Then he saw something come sailing through the air toward them.
“Just something big and black,” he said.
It was one of the ejector seats, he realized afterward. It landed near the driveway and then bounced once or twice before coming to a rest one house away. On Monday morning, the seat sat in the road, partially hidden under a translucent plastic sheet and cordoned off with yellow tape that read “hazardous materials.”
Emmanuel Ramos, who also lives a few houses down from where the plane struck, said he heard a loud boom and then saw neighbors running down the street. He went outside and ran toward the crash site, too, worried for the residents of the home and their dog, which he said was usually in the back yard.
When he got to the house’s iron gate, he tried to grab it so he could run into the back yard, which was engulfed in flames. But the gate was burning hot, he said.
“As soon as we tried to reach over for the gate, it was too hot,” Ramos said.
Ramos said the only thing he could make out was the tail of the plane in the flame-filled yard.
It turned out that the dog had been inside the house at the time of the crash, according to several neighbors, who said they helped the residents of the house get outside and away from the fire.
They took the residents across the street to Mary Dreadin’s house, several neighbors said. Authorities have said they’re assisting the family, and that two other homes were also damaged in the crash, while others were affected by smoke and surrounded by debris.
Dreadin has lived in her home for more than 50 years. She and her husband were driving home from the grocery store when the plane crashed. When authorities told them they couldn’t drive down their street, she worried that it was her home that had been hit.
“It’s bad enough it’s the neighbors, but it could’ve been my house,” Dreadin said. “And, thank God, a miracle happened that it wasn’t on top of their house.”
David Coon, who lives in the same home as Tony and Joni Scarbrough, said the plane could easily have landed on their house.
“We’re definitely blessed. Another second, it would’ve been our house,” Coon said.
The neighborhood is in an area designated by the military as an “accident potential zone” because of its location near the Fort Worth military base. There have been no other serious accidents in the area since the base, then called Carswell Air Force Base, opened in 1942, Lake Worth police said. Police said the coordinated response by local agencies “undoubtedly saved lives and many homes.”
With planes flying over the neighborhood multiple times per day, every day, Coon said he isn’t worried about another crash. Tony Scarbrough, though, said he’s a bit nervous.
And, with her house a bit closer to the crash site, Dreadin said she was feeling on edge, too.
“To know that it’s that close, and to know the people it happened to and that they’re not going to be able to be home for several days,” Dreadin said, “I know it shouldn’t traumatize me, but it did.”
Dozens of houses lost power for hours on Sunday, although neighbors said the power had been restored by Sunday night.
Navy personnel were on the scene again Monday and, by late morning, had consolidated much of the debris from the crash to the front yard of the property where the plane crashed.
Authorities have not yet released the identities of the pilots or the reason for the crash, or given a timeline of when that information may be released. The plane had been on a “routine training flight” from Corpus Christi International Airport, according to a Sunday statement from the Navy.
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