2 dead after military jet crashes near Naval Air Station Key West

'It just literally dropped out of the sky,' witness says

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

KEY WEST, Fla. - Two Navy aviators died after their jet crashed Wednesday near Naval Air Station Key West off the coast the Florida Keys, the US Navy said.

Cmdr. Dave Hecht, a spokesman for Naval Air Station Key West, said the F/A-18 Hornet caught fire in the air and then crashed about 4:30 p.m. in shallow waters about one mile from the runway of Boca Chica Field. 

Hecht said the pilot and a weapons system officer on board were able to parachute out. Hecht said the aviators were rescued from the water and taken to Lower Keys Medical Center for treatment, where they later died of their injuries.

Hecht said an investigation was under way to determine the cause of the crash. Hecht said the aviators, who were on a training flight, would be identified once their families had been notified. 

Photos from the scene show a rescue helicopter hovering over the jet as it sits overturned in the water. 

Barbie Wilson, a local marina owner, witnessed the crash and called 911.

"These jets have been flying all day. I live in the neighborhood and so one was flying over. Then it went a little sideways, then I saw fire and then it just literally dropped out of the sky," Wilson said. "It was like something out of a movie."

President Donald Trump expressed his condolences after the crash on Twitter writing, "Please join me with your thoughts and prayers for both aviators, their families and our incredible @USNavy."

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