Gainesville Sun

Two killed when Navy plane crashes into Jacksonville park

The Associated Press
September 22. 2005 6:01AM

JACKSONVILLE - A Navy jet crashed Wednesday into a park near Jacksonville Naval Air Station as it attempted to land in a rainstorm, killing the pilot and co-pilot.

The S-3 Viking went down about noon in Westside Regional Park, across a highway from the landing strip, said Bill Dougherty, a Navy spokesman.

Dougherty said the names of the two Navy pilots were being withheld until relatives are notified. Navy policy bars releasing the names until 24 hours after family members are notified.

The jet was part of Sea Control Squadron 32, also known as the Maulers, at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

The crash occurred as Jacksonville was being buffeted by heavy rains from the outer bands of Hurricane Rita.

''We saw a flash, heard a boom and then we went outside and saw smoke,'' said Deena Trent, owner of a seafood restaurant near the crash site. ''It was louder than thunder.''

Police were blocking entrances to Westside Regional Park and a few businesses across the highway from the naval station.

Dougherty said the crash is under investigation.

The S-3 is used for many missions, including surveillance, electronic countermeasures, warfare and search and rescue.

All three of the Navy's East Coast squadrons of Vikings are based at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. President Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a S-3B Viking off the coast of California in May 2003 to mark the end of major combat operations in Iraq.