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Virginia Beach Navy jet crash: what is known so far

The Navy jet crash in Virginia Beach Friday destroyed or damaged several apartment buildings. The search for survivors continues as officials begin investigating what caused the accident.

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Although most people in the area – including many military families – support military operations there, there are occasional complaints about low-flying jets, as there are at other military air bases around the country. Over the years, residential neighborhoods and businesses have grown up around many US military facilities.

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Meanwhile, it’s likely to be months before official investigations determine the cause of the accident.

"We will conduct a complete investigation into the cause of this mishap and share all information we have as soon as we are able to do so," Admiral John Harvey, Jr., the US Fleet Forces commander, said in a statement Friday.

But for now the focus is on accounting for and tending to residents in the area.

"We're going to assume that there are people missing, and we're going to do a detailed search,” Virginia Beach Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Riley told CNN. "It's going to take a while to get through there to see the details.”

Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms told reporters Friday the crash likely will result in fatalities.

“You pray that something like this never happens, and now it’s happened," Mr. Sessoms said. "Right now I just pray that our fatalities are low.”

Virginia Beach Fire Department officials reported that six people, including the pilots, were transported to the local hospital, where all had non life-threatening injuries.

The same model of fighter jet, an F/A-18D, crashed in December 2008 while returning to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California after a training exercise in a San Diego neighborhood. That crash killed four members of one family and destroyed two homes.

The Marine Corps said the jet suffered a mechanical failure, but a series of bad decisions led the pilot – a student – to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base after his engine failed. The pilot ejected. A federal judge ordered the federal government to pay the family nearly $18 million in restitution.

There have been more than 25 crashes involving Navy aircraft on or near the Oceana Naval Air Station over the past four decades, reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. The deadliest occurred in June 1992 when a Sikorsky H-53 helicopter went down minutes after taking off, killing seven Navy reservists.

• Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

IN PICTURES: Flight school

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