A US Navy F-18 fighter jet has crashed into an apartment complex in the suburbs of Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Navy confirmed.
The fighter jet slammed into condos, town houses, and a retirement community, according to witnesses.
The two crew members ejected from the jet and were taken to a nearby hospital, but it is not yet known if there are any civilian casualties.
News footage showed smoke rising from numerous homes and the flaming wreckage lying on the ground.
The jet, confirmed to be a Delta two-seat model, apparently crashed at the Mayfield Mews apartment complex.
The Navy said in a news release that the jet was an F/A-18D assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 based at Naval Air Station Oceana.
The military organization said that the jet crashed shortly after takeoff at a site near the base at about 12:05 p.m. Both aviators ejected safely but were taken to a local hospital for observation.
Virginia Beach resident George Pilkington witnessed the crash, and told CNN the timeline of events, describing a few large explosions after the initial crash.
George Pilkington said: “It was emptying out fuel and the tail end was down. They (the crew members) must have ejected before they came down.”
He also said the engine sounded like it was “straining and stressing”.
Overhead helicopter video from WAVY-TV showed fire crews in the apartment complex with large ladders spraying water on multiple smoking buildings, one of which has part of its roof torn off.
Robert Matthias, assistant to Virginia Beach’s city manager, told The Associated Press crews are at the scene of an apartment complex where the jet crashed in what he described as a courtyard.
“So far, they haven’t found any casualties,” Robert Matthias said.
He described the area as residential, calling it an “anywhere but here” situation. While planes fly over the Virginia Beach area frequently, the F-18 crashed into a heavily residential area.
George Pilkington said that emergency crews responded in minutes to the crash.
Black smoke and flames were seen billowing out of what appeared to be a housing complex.
PilotOnline.com quoted a spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic who said the F/A-18 Hornet crashed Friday in the vicinity of Birdneck Road.
Another witness said that when the pilot came down he was still strapped to his ejector seat and had to be pulled out of the wreckage – when he immediately said sorry for the crash.
Retired Virginia Beach rescuer Pat Kavanaugh told CNN: “He apologized very much for hitting out complex and I told him: <<Don’t worry about it, everything’s going to be fine>>.
“I checked him over, did a body survey, he was in shock, still strapped to his seat so we picked him up, dragged him to the other side of the parking lot away from the fire.
“He had something on the lower half of his body, something heavy.
“I knew we have gas in the buildings, so I didn’t know if there were going to be secondary explosions.”
Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesperson Cmdr. Phil Rosi told the website that both aviators safely ejected from the plane.
The jet belongs to VFA’s Strike Fighter Squadron 106 – a training division for student pilots. Because of the crash, Virginia State police have shut down Interstate 264 in both directions.
People are being advised to stay away from the area.