A Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet fighter jet crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in Beaufort, S.C. on Thursday afternoon, the installation confirmed.
Two Marine pilots were aboard and were able to eject before the crash. Neither Marine suffered injuries and were said to be in stable condition. The jet is part of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 (VMFA(AW)-533), Marine Aircraft Group 31, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Marine Capt. Thomas Jones later told reporters the jet was conducting a routine flight when it crashed just outside the air station. He added that there were no civilian casualties, but some damage to property did occur.
Emergency crews will remain on scene until the jet is removed and no longer poses a threat of starting a fire, Jones added.
The jet crashed on Coosaw Plantation, property owned by former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, his sister Sarah Sanford Rauch later confirmed to The Beaufort Gazette. Sanford and his siblings grew up on the property.
Rauch said she, alongside her brother Bill, witnessed the jet take off from the air station before yellow-white flames began “shooting out the back of one of the engines.” The jet slowed while the flames grew visibly bigger, then went nose-down.
“I yelled to my brother, ‘No, no, no, no, no, it’s going down.’ [I] watched it roll, and then go nose dive, and then a couple seconds later, it was a colossal explosion,” she said.
Rauch said she and her brothers drove to the crash site in an attempt to aid the pilots, and spotted parachutes in the trees. She added that one pilot had a “really blood lip” after the crash but was otherwise uninjured.
Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort is home to four F/A-18 squadrons and two F-35B squadrons.
In September 2018, an F-35B assigned to the installation crashed a few miles away. That pilot also ejected safely and no casualties occurred on the ground.
F/A-18 fighter jets from VMFA 312 deployed from Beaufort last week to Norway to participate in Exercise Cold Response – a biennial readiness and defense exercise throughout Norway – alongside Norwegian forces and 26 NATO allied nations and partners.