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Navy Jet Preparing for Air Show Crashes

<i> Associated Press</i>

A Navy FA-18 Hornet fighter jet doing acrobatic maneuvers while practicing for an air show crashed Wednesday near St. Louis, killing the pilot. No other injuries were reported.

The plane sheared off trees and power lines, hit a detached garage and narrowly missed a small brick house. It came to rest in the backyard, burning a black hole in the ground.

The house was unoccupied at the time of the crash.

The pilot, Jeffrey James Crutchfield, who was flying the jet for St. Louis manufacturer McDonnell Douglas Corp., had been performing acrobatics in the area for an hour when the crash occurred.

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Crutchfield, 44, of St. Charles, Mo., was a Navy veteran with 2,000 hours of experience at the controls of Hornets. His wife, Debbie, and three of their five children were at the airport and witnessed the crash.

Gene Siglock, who lives about two blocks from the crash site in an unincorporated area near Bethalto, also witnessed the accident.

“He started doing an outside roll . . . and when he got to the top of the roll something went wrong, he stalled or something,” Siglock said. “He started coming down, and I lost him behind some trees. Then I heard a thump--not an explosion, just a loud thump--and I knew what’d happened.”

The jet was undergoing tests before being put into use by the Navy, said Larry McCracken, a spokesman for McDonnell Douglas. The FA-18, the updated version of the military’s F-18, was to fly in an air show next week.


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