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Two pilots die as Navy plane crashes in park

Associated Press
Published September 22, 2005

JACKSONVILLE - A Navy jet crashed Wednesday in a park near Jacksonville Naval Air Station as it attempted to land in a rainstorm, killing the pilot and co-pilot.

The S-3 Viking went down about noon in Westside Regional Park, across a highway from the landing strip, said Bill Dougherty, a Navy spokesman.

The names of the pilots were withheld until 24 hours after family members are notified, under Navy policy.

The jet was part of Sea Control Squadron 32, also known as the Maulers, at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

The crash occurred as Jacksonville was being buffeted by heavy rains from the outer bands of Hurricane Rita.

"We saw a flash, heard a boom and then we went outside and saw smoke," said Deena Trent, owner of a seafood restaurant near the crash site. "It was louder than thunder."

While the crash was being investigated, police blocked entrances to Westside Regional Park and a few businesses across the highway from the naval station.

Among the Navy personnel and curious onlookers who gathered at the scene was a woman carrying a sign reading, "This is why I don't want you over my house!!!

The S-3 Viking is used for surveillance, electronic countermeasures, warfare and search and rescue.

All three of the Navy's East Coast squadrons of Vikings are based at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

President Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a S-3B Viking off the coast of California in May 2003 to mark the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

[Last modified September 22, 2005, 01:03:19]

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