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Air Force Jet Crashes in Florida

July 11, 1996

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) _ An Air Force F-16 fighter plane trying to make an emergency landing crashed into a house Thursday, setting the home on fire and sending pieces of the jet flying through a neighborhood.

A woman in the home was severely burned and a 4-year-old boy was missing, authorities said.

The pilot, Capt. Frederik G. Hartwig, ejected after the jet’s single engine failed 20 miles north of Pensacola and he could not reach Pensacola Regional Airport, said Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Monica Aloisio.

Hartwig parachuted into a tree near the crash site about a mile from the airport. He was in good condition at Naval Hospital, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Jerry Renne.

Hartwig was the only one in the plane.

``His one wish was that no one on the ground was hurt,″ said John Teelin, a spokesman for Escambia County Emergency Management.

A woman was pulled from the burning house by neighbors.

``She just kept saying, `I want my baby, I want my baby,‴ said Linda McDonald, who works two blocks away. ``The guys ran back to the house to see if they could get in, but it was well engulfed by then. One of the neighbors came out with wet towels and wrapped them around her.″

Robin Cannon, 31, was in stable condition with severe burns at the University of South Alabama Burn Center in Mobile, Ala., after being flown there by helicopter, said Bernie Grappe, a spokesman for West Florida Regional Medical Center in Pensacola.

A 4-year-old boy, Shawn Cannon, was missing, police said.

A witness, Yvonne Griffith, said she was in her car at a stop sign when the jet plunged into the house less than a block away. Griffith said when she went to help she saw a child inside the house as it burned.

Neighbor Malissa Rodgers said she saw the jet smash into the house.

``The house exploded into a ball of fire and pieces of airplane went scattering everywhere,″ she said.

Authorities evacuated a three-block area around the site and an Air Force team was dispatched to investigate.

Several people overcome by heat and injured by debris were treated at the scene, Teelin said.

Marguerite Leblanc, office manager of a real estate business, said she saw the plane come in low and then heard an explosion.

``We lost power and immediately saw billows of black smoke, so we knew that something had happened,″ she said.

The F-16 was one of 50 planes from the 20th Fighter Wing flying from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., to Eglin Air Force Base, about 50 miles east of Pensacola. Officials said the jets were being evacuated from the East Coast because of Hurricane Bertha.

Thursday’s crash was the fourth in 1996 and the 15th since October 1994 for the F-16, one of the most heavily used U.S. military aircraft, the Air Force said. The most recent crash was June 7 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Of the 14 previous crashes, only one resulted in a fatality, when an F-16 crashed in Aviano, Italy, on Jan. 26, 1995.

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