South Dakota Air National Guard
A South Dakota Air National Guard F-16 takes office. Photo courtesy of the guard

An investigation was underway Friday morning into the crash of an F-16 Fighting Falcon into a warehouse just west of March Air Reserve Base in Moreno Valley, injuring the pilot and 12 people on the ground.

The F-16, attached to the 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, went down about 3:45 p.m. Thursday and crashed into the See Water Inc. warehouse at 22220 Opportunity Way, near Meridian Parkway, in the Arnold Heights neighborhood just off of Interstate 215, authorities said.

The pilot, who was on a training mission for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, walked away after parachuting onto the end of Runway 32 and was taken to a hospital for examination, according to the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Twelve people were treated at the scene and taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries, according to the Riverside County Fire Department.

The F-16 punched a huge hole in the roof of the 500,000-square-foot building, causing a fire that triggered the on-site sprinkler system, which contained the flames, according to fire officials.

The structure is stacked with plastic pipes, aluminum awnings and other materials, according to the CHP, which received the 911 calls.

Base officials would not say if the F-16 was carrying ordnance.

“I can’t, at this time, but will provide those details as they become available,” USAFR Col. Melissa Coburn said at a Thursday evening news conference.

Fire officials took a cautious approach to the incident.

“Anything that may be in (the warehouse) is a concern, obviously not just to (firefighters), but to the military,” Riverside County Fire Department Capt. Fernando Herrera said. “So we’re going to take whatever precautions are necessary.”

Firefighters and military personnel re-entered the building around 10 p.m. to assess the danger, but no update was provided.

The California Highway Patrol shut down both sides of Interstate 215 for public safety, in case of explosions.

In Riverside, Meridian Parkway between Alessandro and Van Buren Boulevards and Van Buren Boulevard between Village West Drive and Interstate 215 were closed while the investigation and wreckage recovery continued, the Riverside Police Department said Thursday evening. The Metrolink tracks paralleling the freeway were also closed, as well as its tracks between Moreno Valley and downtown Perris. Bus service was being offered to downtown Perris and South Perris stations.

March is home to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, an Air Force Reserve component that utilizes mammoth C-17 transports, KC-135 refueling tankers and C-130 transports.

Fighter jets are a rare sight at the base.

The last tactical jet crash at March occurred in 1989, when it was still an active-duty Air Force installation. That accident caused a fatality.

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