The crash landing of the AV-8B Harrier aircraft near Felicity, Calif. Wednesday was caused by an unspecified mechanical failure, military officials stated.
The site of the crash landing is still cordoned off by military and law enforcement personnel because two 500-pound bombs attached to the harrier that did not detonate upon impact still pose a danger to the public.
The jet was carrying the bombs en route to the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range to drop the ordnance on targets.
A Crash Fire Rescue Team from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma is “trying to work as quickly as possible” to deal with the threat, said Capt. Staci Reidinger, director of public affairs for MCAS Yuma.
Marine Corps officials were in the process of deciding what to do with the bombs Thursday afternoon.
“They are working… to make a decision on which way to go,” Reidinger added, noting that one option is to bury the bombs at the crash site and to detonate them there. The second option is to disarm the bombs and to transport them to a Marine Corps ordnance disposal location.
If the bombs are detonated at the site, the public may hear a loud noise and feel a slight tremor in the vicinity.
“They are all doing all the calculations on the blow radius,” Reidinger said. “It is not a very large radius that would be impacted because it would be below ground.”
The AV-8B Harrier crashed during a training exercise about 15 miles northwest of MCAS Yuma at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. The pilot, whose identity will not be released at present because the investigation is ongoing, was able to safely eject from the fighter aircraft before it hit the ground.
According to Reidinger, the pilot ejected safely and upon landing used his cell phone to call the base for help. He was able to walk away from the scene. The aircraft was a total loss, officials said.
Gary Redfern of Imperial, Calif. witnessed the jet crash from a nearby road along with a friend.
“We were southbound on Ogilby Road at 3:30 p.m. going from Palo Verde to Yuma and suddenly I saw a large plume of black smoke rise up from the open desert maybe a mile to our southeast,” he said. “As we got closer the smoke dissipated somewhat, but did linger.”
After the pilot called the base, a Search and Rescue helicopter and crew stationed at MCAS Yuma was dispatched to the area of the crash to transport the pilot. The pilot, who did not suffer major injuries, was taken to Yuma Regional Medical Center for observation and was released the same day.
The multimillion-dollar Harrier was assigned to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Air Wing stationed at MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina.
Also known as the Hawks, the squadron trains pilots how to fly Harrier aircraft. The Hawks are in the Yuma area to conduct aerial combat training operations.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.