An F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet crashed in a University City neighborhood near I-805 and Genessee shortly before noon Monday, destroying two homes in a blaze that sent a thick black plume of smoke into the sky.
The U.S. Marine pilot was able to eject from the aircraft before the crash and was taken to a local hospital in fair condition.
The San Diego medical examiner's office has confirmed that three people died in the crash in the 4400 block of Cather Avenue.
Fire crews put the fire out but officials said a total of 6 homes were "unihabitable."
Marine officials at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar said the F/A-18 belonged to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT--101).
It was involved in carrier landing training flights with the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Abrahma Lincoln, operating about 100 miles off the San Diego coast.
Viewers calling 10News described seeing the jet losing altitude with its landing gear down.
Scott Bloom, a bank worker, said he was on his way to visit elderly clients when he saw the pilot eject from the low-flying plane.
"I thought I was dreaming," Bloom said. "It was so surreal."
Bloom said the plane was silent in the moments before the crash. He said he arrived at his clients' home two houses away from the homes struck by the plane.
"I was very afraid for my clients," he said. "My heart was beating and I ran up to their house and there was smoke and flames all over the street."
Bloom said the jet was flying quietly as if it had lost power.
Maurice Luque of the San Diego Fire Department said that two homes were destroyed, two others damaged. Two vehicles were also destroyed.
The wreckage of the F/A-18 Hornet is in the street. At least 60 firefighters were on the scene.
The bodies of two adults and one small child were found in the ruins of one home. The search for a second child was suspended at nightfall and will resume Tuesday morning, according to Luque. The second home destroyed was believed to be vacant, Luque said.
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