Air Force: Bird may have brought down F-16 near Luke - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

UPDATE

Air Force: Bird may have brought down F-16 near Luke

Fighter jet crashes in west Valley. (Source: CBS 5 News) Fighter jet crashes in west Valley. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Twitter photo courtesy of Tristan Truax Twitter photo courtesy of Tristan Truax
Twitter photo courtesy of Tristan Truax Twitter photo courtesy of Tristan Truax
LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, AZ (CBS5) -

An F-16 fighter jet that went down near Luke Air Force Base during a routine training mission most likely hit a bird, the Air Force said Thursday.

An instructor and one student ejected safely before the plane crashed in a field a little before 7 p.m. Wednesday, officials said. 

A Rural Metro crew stationed near Luke saw the crash. They picked up the pilots who were walking down a farm road and took them to the hospital. The pilots, whose names were not released, are expected to be OK.

Witnesses said they heard the engine sputtering and popping just before the aircraft crashed. The jet is with the 309th Fighter Squadron.

"The jet exploded. It went boom," said witness Eva DelaCruz who lives near the base. "It exploded again and we looked up and saw the jet with a lot of flames. Like a lot of fire and I said 'that's not normal' because we see jets left and right."

Another witness said the pilots ejected shortly after the plane took off to the south. The plane flew unmanned for about a minute before crashing to the ground just outside the fence of the base. 

"We were the first ones there before anybody else," recounted DelaCruz. "And my grandsons ran across the field to look at the guys and they said one was hurt, was bleeding from the nose."

In a statement, Luke AFB officials reported both pilots were uninjured. A spokesman for Rural/Metro told CBS5 one of the pilots was complaining of back pain. 

Helicopter footage showed plumes of smoke rising from the crash scene near Glendale Avenue and Sarival Road, about two to three miles west of the base.

Maricopa County sheriff's deputies have closed nearby roadways.

The Air Force will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the accident

Stay with cbs5az.com and CBS 5 News for updates on this developing story.

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Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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