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Harrier jet crashes near Air Force base

October 17, 1997

FAIRBORN, Ohio (AP) _ A military jet on a training mission crashed in a cornfield only 50 feet from a busy interstate highway junction. No one was injured and the pilot ejected safely.

Witness Paul Cronley said he saw flames coming from the engine of the Marine AV-8B Harrier moments before it crashed Thursday between Dayton and Springfield in an area of farms and housing developments.

``I think the pilot did one heck of a job to find a safe area,″ Cronley said. ``It was just rubble. The thing disintegrated.″

Cronley said the plane ``took a nose dive, and then I just saw a huge fireball in a cornfield.″

The crash happened near an Interstate 675 ramp that leads to Interstate 70 in western Ohio. Capt. Stephen Brooks, 30, of Washington, Pa., suffered scrapes and bruises and was taken to a hospital at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The Harrier, which can take off and land vertically, was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, N.C., the Pentagon said.

The plane was one of four Harriers that had just taken off from Wright-Patterson, said Staff Sgt. Kristine Wilbanks, a spokeswoman from Cherry Point. The cause of the crash was being investigated.

About 20 of the jets have crashed in the last four years and Harriers were temporarily grounded after one crashed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., last October. That pilot ejected safely. A Harrier had crashed in Arizona two weeks earlier, killing the pilot.

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