(Video image: Sally Anderson)
CLINTON, Md. - A pilot for the District of Columbia Air National Guard ejected from his military jet before it crashed into a wooded area in Prince George's County in Maryland.
The F-16C fighter jet took off from Joint Base Andrews at around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday and was participating in a routine training mission before it suffered a mechanical issue and went into a wooded area near Piscataway Road and Steed Road in Clinton, Maryland, about six miles from Joint Base Andrews and 12 miles south of Washington D.C.
The pilot was able to eject safely from the jet before the crash and there was no one else on the aircraft.
"During the flight, the pilot experienced a mechanical issue and immediately took actions," said Brigadier Gen. George Degnon, the acting adjutant general for the District of Columbia Air National Guard. "Once he realized he would not be able to safely land the aircraft, he made a decision to maneuver to a wooded area to avoid the risk of the local community and ensure public safety before initiating the ejection sequence. The pilot only had time to rely on his extensive training while to mitigate any kind of collateral damage."
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Degnon said the pilot was flown to the medical center at Joint Base Andrews where we was treated and released.
The pilot is a member of the 121st Fighter Squadron, 113th Wing, for the D.C. Air National Guard. According to his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Michael Croker, the pilot has been with the D.C. Air National Guard for about four years and has been flying with the squadron for the past year.
Witnesses say they saw the pilot parachute from the aircraft and walk away once on the ground. The pilot was picked up by a military helicopter and was taken to the hospital.
Sally Anderson, a witness to the F-16 military jet crash, goes over what she saw during the incident. Watch below:
The pilot was part of four fighter jets conducting a training exercise flying from Maryland to a shooting range in Pennsylvania. The plane was armed with "training rounds," which are real bullets that lack the armor-piercing and explosive capabilities of rounds used in combat.
"The D.C. Air National Guard conducts daily training missions to ensure mission readiness of our pilots," said Brigadier Gen. Degnon. "We are part of a layer of defense of the nation's capital and we maintain a high level of lethality and readiness. In addition to our homeland defense mission, we routinely deploy in support of global combat operations with the F-16."
Since the September 11th attacks, there is at least one F-16 jet fighter on an eight-minute alert status. That aircraft is ready to take off in an emergency from Joint Base Andrews.
F-16 pilots are trained to steer away from populated areas in the event of an emergency. There were no injuries reported to anyone on the ground and no structures were damaged. Residents who were temporarily evacuated were sent to Clinton Grove Elementary School.
Local authorities say Piscataway Road (Rt.-223) is closed between Tippett Road and Temple Hill Road. Secondary roads in the area were also closed at this time and were expected to remain closed for the remainder of the day
The debris field related to the crash could be anywhere between 8 to 10 miles long and stretch from the National Harbor to the crash site in Clinton. Lt. Col. Lisa Mabbutt said they are working to begin the recovery phase to mark and gather all of the debris for their safety investigation. She said the debris is not believed to be a danger to the public.
A large portion of plane is still at the crash site. Two of the fuel tanks that were jettisoned have been recovered.
Anyone in the area who comes across debris from the F-16 crash is advised not to touch or move them and to contact emergency crews at 301-981-2002, 240-612-4428, 240-612-4430 or 240-857-8685.
Information from the Associated Press used in this report. Stay with FOX 5 for the latest on he investigation into the crash.