Harrier jet that crashed into homes in Imperial, Calif. unarmed

Harrier jet that crashed into homes in Imperial, Calif. unarmed

Harrier jet crash in Imperial, CA., Wednesday afternoon Harrier jet crash in Imperial, CA., Wednesday afternoon
UPDATED: Harrier Crash Imperial, Calif. / June 5, 2014 4:25 p.m. MST

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (KSWT-TV 13OYS): Military officials now confirm the Harrier jet that crashed into several homes in Imperial City, Calif. was unarmed and was not carrying ordnance or missiles.

Military officials said no civilians on the ground were injured. However, two homes were completely destroyed and one heavily damaged. 

The pilot ejected safely and was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries. The pilot has since been released from the hospital.

According to MCAS Miramar, the AV-8B Harrier from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma was on a training flight when it went down.

In a statement released to the media, military officials said they are thankful for the outpour of community support.  

Residents first reported a military aircraft crashed into a home near Cross Road & Fonzie Avenue at approximately 4:20 p.m. Wednesday. Images provided by 13 On Your Side viewers show a home engulfed in flames. 

13OYS Reporter Grecia Aguilar, who was on scene, spoke to one resident who said he jumped into action and began rescuing children from one of the burning homes.

According to Imperial City officials, eight homes were evacuated but by last night five homes were cleared and those families were allowed to return.

Marine Corps has a team of experts on site to conduct clean-up operations. Aircraft components and fuel are considered hazardous materials.

"We are committed to a thorough cleanup of the crash site and will continue our remediation efforts until the area meets standards set forth by the County's Department of Environmental Health," said Maj. Gen. Steven Busby, commanding general 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "We greatly appreciate the community's patience and understanding during this difficult time."

A thorough investigation is already underway to determine the cause of the crash.

It was the second crash in a month of a Harrier jet from the Yuma air base. On May 9, a pilot was able to eject safely before his jet crashed in a remote desert area near the Gila River Indian Community, south of Phoenix. No one was injured.

In July 2012, another AV-8B Harrier crashed in an unpopulated area 15 miles from the air base, which is among the busiest training aviation centers in the world for the Marine Corps.

The Harrier, built by McDonnell Douglas, is a single-engine attack jet that can land and takeoff vertically - hence its nickname, Jump Jet. Military officials say the aircraft is being replaced by the F-35 because it has been in use for more than 40 years and has reached the end of its life cycle.

It also has had a problematic safety record over the years.

In 1999, the planes were grounded after a series of crashes, and in 2003 the Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of reports that found the Harrier was the most accident-prone aircraft in the military at that time.

A few hours after the jet crashed Wednesday in Imperial, a Navy Hornet went into the sea off San Diego as it prepared to make a late-night landing on an aircraft carrier. The pilot was ejected and listed in stable condition.