Video: Death toll reaches four in fighter jet crash

updated 12/9/2008 9:07:37 PM ET 2008-12-10T02:07:37

A high-ranking congressman called on the Marine Corps on Tuesday to release the maintenance records of all fighter jets of the type that lost power and crashed into a San Diego neighborhood, killing four members of a Korean family.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said the fiery crash Monday of the F/A-18D Hornet fighter as it approached Marine Corps Air Station Miramar was apparently caused by power failure.

"My understanding ... is that the engines failed, causing the aircraft to lose thrust," said Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper.

The crash was probably unrelated to the previous discovery of cracks in hinges on the wings of more than a dozen of the $57 million aircraft, the San Diego-area congressman said.

"It is important that we gain a complete understanding of what went wrong," Hunter said in a statement.

Marine Cpl. Travis Easter said officials at Miramar had no immediate response to the request for maintenance records.

Navy grounded some planes
The Navy announced last month that it was grounding 10 of the planes and limiting the flights of 20 others because of the cracks. It was not immediately clear whether the plane that crashed in San Diego was under any flight restrictions.

The death toll from the crash was revised to four Tuesday after a toddler's body was found.

Fire Department spokesman Maurice Luque says the body of 15-month-old Grace Yoon was found Tuesday in the home where three other family members died.

The Rev. Kevin Lee of the Korean United Methodist Church says the other victims were Young Mi Yoon, who was in her mid-30s; her 2-month-old daughter, Rachel; and her mother, Suk Im Kim.

Lee says the grandmother had recently arrived from South Korea to help care for the infant.

Both engines on the jet failed while it tried to land at a nearby Marine base Monday. The pilot ejected before the crash. Both engines of the jet fighter failed before the crash, a congressional aide said Tuesday.

Neighbors were in shock at the tragedy that befell the family hours after the father kissed his wife and baby goodbye in the driveway.

The twin-engine F/A-18D Hornet went down about two miles from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. The pilot ended up suspended by his parachute in a tree. He was being treated at a hospital.

One other home was destroyed and three were damaged.

Family had recently moved in
Neighbors said the family of Korean immigrants moved into the area about three months ago.

Resident Choko McConnell, 85, a widow who lives down the street, said she often saw the grandmother pushing a child in a stroller.

"I cried all night," McConnell said. "A family perished, a young family."

Michael Rose, 44, said he often spoke with the family and had seen the father kiss his wife and baby goodbye in the driveway just hours before the crash.

"I thought, what a beautiful sight. And then later in the day, they were gone," Rose said.

Amy Hegy, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, San Diego, said she spoke to the father of the children when he returned to the gutted home Monday night. Hegy said he was "calm" and stayed with friends. She also said the man had extended family in San Diego but would not reveal further details.

Military aircraft frequently streak over the neighborhood, but residents said the imperiled aircraft was flying extremely low.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner said it had tentatively identified each of the victims and was in contact with family members for confirmation. No names were released.

Pilot was returning from carrier
The pilot had been returning from training on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the coast, said 1st Lt. Katheryn Putnam, a Miramar spokeswoman.

Slideshow: Deadly jet crash Investigators will review information from a flight data recorder. There was no indication the pilot was using alcohol or drugs, Putnam said.

Dawn Lyons spoke to the pilot just after he landed in the tree.

"I saw an incredibly composed person," Lyons said. "He didn't have any scrapes or bruises. He was very lucid."

There was little sign of the plane in the smoking ruins, but a piece of cockpit sat on the roof of one home, and a charred jet engine lay on the street. Authorities said the smoking wreckage was toxic and about 20 homes were evacuated.

The Navy recently inspected hundreds of F/A-18 Hornets, built by Boeing Co., after discovering "fatigue cracks" on more than a dozen of them. The inspections looked for cracks in a hinge that connects the aileron — a flap that helps stabilize the jet in flight — to the wing.

The Navy announced last month it had grounded 10 of the $57 million fighters and placed flight restrictions on 20 more until repairs could be made.

The supersonic jet is widely used by the Marine Corps and Navy and by the stunt-flying Blue Angels. An F-18 crashed at Miramar — the setting for the movie "Top Gun" — in November 2006, and that pilot ejected safely.

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