An investigation was continuing Friday into the crash of an armed F-16 Fighting Falcon that plunged into a warehouse just west of March Air Reserve Base in Moreno Valley, injuring the pilot and a dozen people at the crash site.
The jet, attached to the 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, went down about 3:45 p.m. Thursday, going through the roof of the See Water Inc. warehouse at 22220 Opportunity Way, near Meridian Parkway, in the Arnold Heights neighborhood, just off of Interstate 215.
U.S. Air Force Reserve Col. Thomas McNamara, vice commander of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March, would not specify the type of weapons on board the fighter aircraft, saying only that it was loaded with a “standard armament” package.
F-16s, which have been used in every U.S. military conflict since the first Gulf War, are capable of carrying air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as 20mm cannons.
McNamara said the jet’s ordnance had been secured and would be safely disposed of at an undisclosed location. ABC7 broadcast images suggesting the armaments may been transported to an undeveloped portion of the Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center in Riverside, where they were possibly going to be neutralized under ground.
Base officials issued a warning on social media that people in the area might hear some loud blasts as the materials are disposed of.
Neither the colonel nor any other base representative offered an explanation or speculation as to why the F-16 went down, including the possibility of fuel starvation. There was no post-crash fire.
The pilot was returning from a homeland security mission involving West Coast patrols, under the direction of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, according to military officials.
The flight officer, whose name was not released, walked away after parachuting onto the end of Runway 32 and was taken to a hospital for examination, according to March officials. He did not require hospitalization.
Riverside University Health System doctors said during a briefing near the air base Friday afternoon that 12 other patients, including several first responders, were brought to Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley from the crash scene for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
Three of those individuals were admitted to the hospital.
“It was a good outcome from an unexpected incident,” said RUHS spokeswoman Leah Patterson.
The doctors said several patients were treated for potential contamination exposure, though nothing else was disclosed for privacy protection.
Both sides of I-215 were closed within an hour of the F-16 going down, and the entire freeway remained closed in the area of the crash Friday afternoon, impacting commuters south into the Temecula Valley and north into San Bernardino. A California Highway Patrol sergeant indicated the 215 may be gradually reopened before nightfall.
Metrolink tracks paralleling the freeway were also closed, meaning no service on the Perris Valley Line. However, bus service was being offered between Moreno Valley and downtown Perris, according to the Riverside Transit Agency.
Fire department battalion chiefs identified what they believed to be ordnance during an immediate post-crash search of the warehouse Thursday, prompting the freeway closure and evacuations of surrounding buildings, according to reports from the scene.
The F-16 punched a large hole in the roof of the 500,000-square-foot building, triggering the on-site sprinkler system, according to the fire department.
The structure is stacked with plastic pipes, aluminum awnings and other materials, according to the CHP, which received the 911 calls.
In Riverside, Meridian Parkway between Alessandro and Van Buren Boulevards, and Van Buren Boulevard between Village West Drive and I-215, were closed while the investigation and wreckage recovery continued.
The 452nd Air Mobility Wing is an Air Force Reserve component that utilizes mammoth C-17 transports, KC-135 refueling tankers and C-130 transports. Fighter jets do not regularly appear in March’s airspace.
The last tactical jet crash at the base occurred in 1989, when it was still an active-duty Air Force installation. That accident caused a fatality.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: