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Military Plane Crashes In Vermont; Crew Safe

February 3, 1989

KIRBY, Vt. (AP) _ A military fighter-bomber crashed Thursday in northeastern Vermont, with its two crewmen parachuting to safety just seconds before the plane hit the ground.

″They were at about 1,000 feet when they separated,″ said Gary Boog, a doctor who saw the crash from his car. ″Then the plane hit the ground and exploded. And it just disintegrated. There are parts scattered a quarter mile in every direction.″

A military spokesman would not say whether the FB-111 was armed, but local emergency rescue officials told people at the scene it was not.

The plane, a medium-range fighter-bomber with a two-man crew, was based at the U.S. Air Force base in Plattsburgh, N.Y., which is about 80 miles west of the crash site.

The pilot was Capt. Randall F. Voorhees and the navigator Capt. Len J. Esterly Jr., said e, said David Eastman, 34, a former Air Force sergeant who heard the crash and set out on snowshoes with a friend to find the two near his property.

The two crew members were taken back to the base Thursday afternoon by helicopter.

State police said the two airman walked a quarter of a mile from the crash to a farmhouse where they waited for a car that drove them to a designated clearing off Route 2 for the helicopter to pick them up.

″He seemed to be a lot calmer than I was when I found out about it,″ said Trooper Leo Willey of his telephone conversation with the pilot.

The FB-111 can carry nuclear and conventional weapons. The same type of plane was used in the 1986 raid on Libya.

The jet crashed in the town of Kirby, next to St. Johnsbury, about 10 miles west of the New Hampshire border. It went down in woods less than a mile from heavily traveled Route 2. Boog was driving on that road when ″out of the corner of my eye, I saw this jet flashing real low.″

″The plane was not on fire,″ he said.

Boog said he borrowed a snowmobile from a house and went to the crash site, but found the airmen gone. When he was told they were uninjured he returned the snowmobile.

Lucy Maroney was at her mother’s when the plane crashed on her mother’s property.

″It sounded just like a jet was flying real low but then there was this loud noise that I thought was a sonic boom. It was the crash,″ she said. ″I looked out the window and we could see flames and saw a parachute coming down.″

Donald Godbut, a state employee at Cannon Mountain ski area, was in his front yard in neighboring Littleton, N.H., at 11:45 a.m.

″I heard an explosion, and I looked up in the air in the direction of the explosio wings to increase speed when traveling at supersonic speeds.

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