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2 Killed, 2 Rescued From Sea In Separate Crashes of Navy Planes

July 25, 1989

NORTH ISLAND NAVAL AIR STATION, Calif. (AP) _ A Navy radar plane crashed on takeoff at this San Diego base, killing two of three crewmen, while two other fliers were plucked from the Pacific after their fighter ditched offshore.

The first crash occurred about 5:30 p.m. Monday at North Island as a jet used to jam enemy radar was attempting to take off for a training run, military officials said.

The twin-engine EA-6B Prowler failed to lift off as it was embarking on the homeward leg of a training flight that began Monday morning at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington state, officials said.

″It crashed just as it reached the end of the runway,″ said Lt. Jack Papp, a Navy spokesman.

″There was nothing left. The plane’s a complete loss,″ he said.

Killed were the pilot, Lt. John A. Zibel, 31, of Coal Center, Pa., and an electronic countermeasures officer, Lt. j.g. Kevin Leslie, 27, of Beverly, Mass., said Mary Ann Heiserman, a spokeswoman at Whidbey Island.

Lt. Cmdr. Chauncey L. Mitchell, 35, of Beaumont, Texas, another electronic countermeasures officer, survived with minor injuries, Ms. Heiserman said.

He was listed in stable condition at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, said Lt. Jack Papp, a Navy spokesman.

The Prowler is designed to be launched from a carrier and to jam land-based enemy radar during long-range bombing missions, Papp said. The crash was being investigated.

Hours later, a Navy F-14 fighter jet went down around 9 p.m. six miles off San Clemente Island, which lies about 60 miles northwest of San Diego.

The pilot, Lt. Stephen Molter, 28, of Chapel Hill, N.C., and the radar intercept officer, Lt. Daniel Crisp, 27, of Marion, Ohio, parachuted into the water and were picked up 43 minutes later by a small Navy boat.

They were examined at a clinic on San Clemente, then returned to the mainland. Both were in ″good shape,″ Ms. Carleton said.

The F-14, part of squadron VF 51 at Miramar and normally stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Vinson, was on a mission to practice landings on a simulated carrier deck on the island, 60 miles northwest of San Diego.

Ms. Carleton did not know at which point of the mission the jet crashed. There were indications of an engine stall and resulting control problems, and the crew elected to eject, she said.

Both crashes were under investigation.

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