Air Guard jet misses target, hits school

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by janeeng, Nov 5, 2004.

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    Never a dull moment in NJ!!!!!!!! :eek2:

    By GREGORY J. VOLPE
    GANNETT NEW JERSEY

    LITTLE EGG HARBOR -- An Air National Guard F-16 fighter jet fired several 20mm practice rounds that hit the Intermediate School on Frog Pond Road Wednesday night instead of a target at the guard's Warren Grove bombing range a few miles away.

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    Three or four custodians were in the building when six to eight rounds hit the roof and another five hit the parking lot at about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday. No one was injured.

    The F-16, assigned to the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, discharged about 25 20mm rounds from its automatic M61 A1 cannon, according to officials. The accident occurred during a nighttime training mission originating at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

    The school is 3 1/2 miles away from the target at the bombing range.

    "We do not know why the gun fired," said Brian Webster, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard. "We need to go find out what happened and what went wrong."

    Webster said the military is investigating, and he wouldn't speculate on what happened nor provide any information on the pilot.

    THOMAS P. COSTELLO/Gannett New Jersey
    Col. Brian Webster, left, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, discussing Wednesday night's practice-bombing accident yesterday. Seated to Webster's right were Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt of the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs and Little Egg Harbor Township Police Chief Mark Siino.
    Some people living nearby said they didn't hear a sound Wednesday. They said they were relieved that no child was harmed but expressed fear at rounds hitting so close to home.

    "God forbid the kids were in the school," said William Styler, 68, a retired commercial pilot and radio operator in the Air Force whose granddaughter attends the intermediate school. "There's a lot of kids who go to that school and it's so close to this neighborhood.

    "Those guys should know what they're doing. Something should be done," Styler added.

    The school, which was closed yesterday and today because of the state teachers conference, is expected to be repaired and inspected in time to open on Monday, school board President Michael Dupuis said.

    "Safety's our biggest concern," Dupuis said. "Being so close to the range, that's always in the back of our minds, but this is an isolated incident."

    Diane Schneider, 47, said her husband had his Boy Scout troop in the school less than three hours before the rounds struck.

    "That's bad. My son goes to that school," she said. "Goodness gracious, thank God it was overnight and no kids were there. How could that possibly have happened?"

    The school sustained punctures in the roof and some scuffing in the parking lot.

    Several classrooms had debris from the ceiling hit the floors. At least one desk was hit by debris, and pupils could have been injured if the accident had taken place while school was open, said Police Chief Mark Siino.

    Custodians heard a noise that sounded like someone running or jumping on the roof and saw damage Wednesday night, but the damage police observed that night did not appear to be from a projectile until yesterday morning when school staff found rounds on the ground, Siino said.

    Police found eight holes in the roof, six rounds in the building and five more outside. None were found outside school property, he said.

    The 20mm training rounds are about 2-inches long, weigh about an ounce and do not explode, Webster said.

    Webster said there has never been an incident like this in the training missions, but there have been other scares. In January 2002, a pilot error caused an F-16 to crash just west of the Garden State Parkway in Bass River. And in June 2001, an errant practice bomb sparked a 1,600-acre fire on the range.

    Linda Carrier, 41, mother of a sixth-grader at the school, said she had always been nervous about living near the range.

    "It's horrifying. It's very scary," she said after learning rounds hit the school. "I don't know what to say."

    Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt, spokeswoman for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said: "The National Guard takes this situation very seriously. The safety of our people and of the surrounding communities are our foremost concern."

    Gerald Panaccione, 81, a World War II veteran who joined the Air National Guard's motor poor after the war, was more forgiving.

    "Accidents happen all the time. As long as nobody got hurt," Panaccione said.

    Cecilia Garbaravage, 46, whose daughter attends the school, said: "I'm just glad school was closed. There's a reason for everything, I guess. It's scary. It's really scary."


    http://www.thnt.com/thnt/story/0,21282,1103024,00.html
     

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