Bruce Nedelka, the Virginia Beach EMS division chief, said that witnesses saw fuel being dumped from the jet before it went down, and that fuel was found on buildings and vehicles in the area.
“By doing so, he mitigated what could have been an absolute massive, massive fireball and fire,” Nedelka said. “With all of that jet fuel dumped, it was much less than what it could have been.”
The fire had been put out, Nedelka said, and crews were going through the buildings to search for anyone who might have been inside at the time of the crash.
The jet took off from nearby Oceana Naval Air Station and crashed into the complex on Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach shortly after noon Eastern time. The plane, a two-seater belonging to a training squadron for student pilots, appeared to encounter difficulties shortly after takeoff, the Navy said.
Witness George Pilkington told CNN that he saw the plane flying low, with its nose up and apparently emptying jet fuel, just before it plowed into the apartment building. Flames shot 60 to 80 feet into the air after the crash, he said. “There was a couple of large explosions after it crashed.”