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Navy fighter jets collide over Central California

Officials say a Navy pilot was killed and another was injured but in good condition when two fighter jets collided over a military base on the Central California coast.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Navy pilot was killed and another was injured Monday when two fighter jets collided over a Central Coast military base, Cmdr. Jack Hanzlik said.

The F18-C Hornet jets from Lemoore Naval Air Station were practicing dogfighting maneuvers around 11:15 a.m. when they crashed mid-air at Fort Hunter Liggett, a remote Army Reserve base 150 miles south of San Francisco, said Navy spokesman Dennis McGrath.

The pilots were using the airspace above Hunter Liggett's 165,000-acre training range at the time, said Mark Hamelin, the base's site manager.

One pilot ejected and was in good condition. He was en route back to Lemoore by late afternoon, Hamelin said.

The names of the pilots were to be released Tuesday, he said. The officers were members of Strike Fighter Squadron 125, also known as "Rough Riders."

The cause of the crash, which sparked several small fires, was under investigation.

Visibility was clear
The terrain at Hunter Liggett is very rugged, its golden hills studded with oak trees. Visibility the afternoon of the crash was clear.

A thick plume of smoke still could be seen on the ridge at the crash site hours after the collision. The haze from the fires filled the valley miles away from the base.

The California Department of Forestry and the base's fire department sought to control the fires late Monday afternoon.

Lemoore supplies all the fighter jets to Navy ships off the West Coast and serves as a training site for F18-Cs. Dozens of fighters rotate to and from aircraft carriers every month.

The Lemoore base, which is 30 miles south of Fresno, is about 100 miles inland from where the crash took place.

The F18-C is a McDonnell-Douglas single-seat fighter jet that can reach a maximum speed of 1,190 mph.