No Fatalities In N.J. F-16 Crash

An F-16 with the New Jersey Air National Guard crashed Thursday morning near the Garden State Parkway during a training mission and the pilot ejected safely, officials said.

The pilot, based at the 177th Fighter Wing at Pomona, was found at Warren Grove, a 2,400-acre bombing range, officials said.

"He appears to be OK and is being transported to a local hospital for evaluation," said Natasha Zoe, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey National Guard.

Col. John Dwyer of the Air National Guard said the plane "was not involved in a combat mission. This was involved in a training mission."

Pilots from Pomona have been flying cover missions over major U.S. cities since the Sept. 11 attacks, though Pentagon officials said this flight was not being done as part of the homeland security mission.

The plane crashed at about 10:45 a.m. and debris was scattered across the highway, a major north-south route, said John Hagerty, a state police spokesman. Hagerty did not know if anyone on the ground was injured.

Jared Jackson, of Little Egg Harbor, said he was outside his house smoking a cigarette and watching planes go by over the bombing range when he heard "a big crack."

"It didn't sound like the normal bombs being dropped," said Jackson, 23, who immediately after looked around the side of his house. "I saw a cloud of smoke come up from tree-level."

Air National Guard pilots stationed at Pomona fly four- to seven-hour sorties in which F-16s cruise above metropolitan New York at speeds of up to 1,500 miles per hour.

F-16s, designed to attack both other airplanes and ground targets, were used extensively during the Gulf War and to patrol no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.

In another training accident, an Air National Guard pilot ditched his F-16 in the ocean off Atlantic City in August 2000 after its engine quit. The pilot ejected safely.

©MMII The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed